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Asian carp = $$ for some

January 20, 2010 at 04:16 PM

Associated Press Writer

ST. LOUIS (AP) - The Asian carp many fear could destroy the Great Lakes’ $7 billion-a-year fishing industry make up half of Mike Schafer’s business, which in just over a year has turned 12 million pounds of the invasive fish into everything from fillets to fertilizer.

Schafer and entrepreneurs like him advocate aggressive fishing of Asian carp as a way to make money and save the Great Lakes, where environmentalists fear the voracious fish would starve native species by consuming their food. But several of them say such efforts can’t get going without government help, and that’s been in short supply as states face budget problems.

The question of how to fight the carp has become more urgent as the invasive species originally imported to cleanse ponds and sewage lagoons in the Deep South works its way north through waterways such as the Illinois River. The fish’s DNA was recently found in Lake Michigan, although no Asian carp have been spotted there yet.

Schafer’s family owned business once dealt solely in Mississippi River catfish, but he expanded into carp about a decade ago and found it lucrative: In just the past year or so, he’s upped his production by several million pounds.

Little goes to waste. About one-third of each carp is turned into fillets Schafer exports overseas. The rest get converted into fertilizer, much of it sent to California vegetable farms.

“We’re up to using about a million pounds a month of Asian carp, and I think we’re just getting started,” said Schafer, noting that his operation and one in Spirit Lake, Iowa, are the nation’s only two Asian carp processors.

Aggressive fishing and processing does seem to reduce the carp population, he said: “In the areas we’ve taken those large quantities out, we’re seeing a depletion of the species there.”

Others are angling to get in, although they say government subsidies are likely needed to make it viable.

John Holden, a Rockford, Ill.-based reproductive endocrinologist and his business partner tested running a fish processing plant last year in Havana, Ill., that turned carp into a powdered protein supplement for animal feed and into Omega-3 oil. Now they’d like to build eight plants along the Illinois and Upper Mississippi rivers. Each one could process up to 2 tons of carp per hour, Holden said.

With the abundance of carp in the rivers, “I’m guaranteed to get my money back and then some,” Holden said. “I just want to get rid of the carp. They don’t belong here.”

But Holden said he needs $20 million to build the plants and perhaps another $750,000 for a fishing fleet equipped with nets and power hoists to handle the carp, which can weigh up to 100 pounds. He and his partner, Tim Leeds, an Iowa-based obstetrician, met with Illinois lawmakers on Monday, telling them they need taxpayer help - perhaps grants - to get going.

That seems unlikely given Illinois’ budget proble ms. In August, Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a measure allocating up to $3 million to the state Department of Natural Resources for a one-year pilot study to see if overfishing the Illinois for carp could meaningfully shrink their numbers. But that money still hasn’t been disbursed.

Jim Sneed’s business received a $100,000 grant from Illinois a few years ago to see what it could do with the tens of millions of pounds of carp it said it could pull from Illinois rivers every year. One of the things Sneed learned is that more marketing is needed to convince Americans that carp aren’t just bony bottom-feeders unfit for eating.

“You don’t just go into a restaurant and say, ‘Should I have salmon or the bighead carp?’ The fish has an image problem,” Sneed said.

Sneed, of Hollywood, S.C., had planned to build a processing plant to turn the fish into an extract used to make flavored seafood products common in Asia and elsewhere overseas. He believed he could get a $3 million to $6 million return on his investments. But the plans stalled, partly because the recession made investors more cautious about putting their money in what they saw as a risky venture.

Sneed suggested the government could get such efforts going again by putting a bounty on the fish, essentially subsidizing the harvest.

“It’s a money issue,” he said. “That’s what’s stopped me.”

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

1. “I’m guaranteed to get my money back and then some,”

2. He believed he could get a $3 million to $6 million return on his investments.

$100,000 of taxpayer dollars already in with 20.75 million more requested. Ummmmmm No thanks.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/21 at 06:32 AM

I think these folks need to look up the definition of entrepreneur. Maybe the 7 billion a year fishing industry should invest in this and be a little pro-active in their own future. If these so called entrepreneurs can’t find investors why would taxpayers want to be involved?
I agree no thanks

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/21 at 09:56 AM

These projects are worthy of federal stimulus money.
If they create jobs, the money will trickle back to the tax payer. The fish farmers in the south that started this problem are subsidized by the USDA.
So maybe the solution should be reroute farm subsidies,from say the top ten percent of the largest farmers to fund theses projects. To see what your poor framer gets look at

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/21 at 12:27 PM

3 different times now, there have been the promises of jobs related to this very issue. An old chicken plant in Pearl, IL. 3 different times, state and local money have gone to individuals that have promised jobs for the fishermen and jobs in the processing plant. Every time it has been the same song and dance…......... 30-40 jobs at the plant and lots of extra income for the fishermen. Two times the folks that got the state and local money put a couple people on the payroll for six months and then closed up shop. The fishermen still got 4-9 cents per pound. The ones that are there now also promised 30-40 jobs and even though they are still operational, they have never had more than 6 people employed there according to the folks in town. And those are all min wage/near min wage jobs. The fishermen are still only getting a few cents per pound and are told how many and how often they can sell fish there. 3rd degree burns are bad and the taxpayer being burned for the 3rd time is also bad.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/21 at 03:20 PM

They’re talking about depleting their revenue source or at least a large part of it. That doesn’t sound like much of a business plan to me. Then what? How much of your money would you invest? I don’t think many jobs would be created because it will be an automated operation once they are netted if I remember previous articles correctly. But you have to believe in subsidies, stimulus, bailouts,
entitlements, backroom deals ect. ect. and I don’t.
And please you don’t even want me to get into EWG thing.
BTW if that is your 19” speck, nice fish.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/21 at 03:50 PM

The author of this article failed to mention that the Illinois Dept. of Corrections has already been feeding Asian Carp to prisoners.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/22 at 11:09 AM

During the spring snagging season at the lock and dam in Alton, there are times that you can catch an Asian carp on every cast.  Although the quarry is spoonbill, the carp really keep things exciting.  The swift current combined with the size and strength of these fish truly make catching these fish exciting.  I use 100lb test power pro line and I have had fish break the line.  I don’t keep the fish but there are plenty of scavengers…er…I mean ethnic folks that are glad to get them.  The Asian fish are here to stay so we might as well make them into a sport fish such as snagging and bow fishing.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/22 at 12:49 PM

be careful calling them a sport fish,next thing ya know people will be telling you to throw the big ones back.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/24 at 07:28 AM

Jim Holden of Rockford wants $750,000 for fishing boats including nets and power hoists? I think Mr. Holden is just trying to get his hands on all the tax dollars he can. These fish might get up to 100 pounds but not that often. I have been commercial fishing these fish since the market started buying them. I am yet to need a hoist to get a carp out of the river. Mike Shafer has done a great job finding a market for these fish around the world and as a result has built a great business and helped fisherman, and the river. While everyone else is just talking about the problem and throwing good money after bad, Mike has done something about it. He has caused more asian carp to be taken out of our river than any goverment program, and has made himself and alot of other people money in the process. This is pure American capitalism, not Obamaism.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/24 at 11:44 PM

would like to help out with asiancarp problem am a netfisherman from south alabama.i believe can produce high quantity of fish with what equiptment i have.if anyone can provide any info on matter such as fish buyers/location would be much appreciated

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/28 at 06:30 PM

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