Plans for a local Asian Carp processing center are on the way

By WEEK Reporter

May 6, 2014 Updated May 6, 2014 at 8:57 PM CDT

EAST PEORIA, Ill. -- Local leaders, international entrepreneurs, and local businesses are cooking up a plan to control the invasion of Asian Carp in the Illinois River.

Ten entrepreneurs in China have expressed interest in bringing an Asian Carp processing center to the Peoria area.

Asian Carp was introduced to American fisheries in the 1970's to clean-up the water. Now, the species has invaded the Illinois River--making up more than half of the river's biomass.

"They grow so fast that they can really out grow their predators, so they'll get to the point where they are too big for the other fish to eat," said Illinois Department of Natural Resources representative Kevin Irons.

A female Asian Carp can weigh more than 100 pounds, and will lay more than 2,000,000 eggs three times a year.

"It's a major threat to natural biodiversity," said Irons. "If we find some alternative use for these, we might be able to get the population down."

Experts say the Illinois River near Peoria is one of the many Asian Carp hot spots. It is attracting international interest.

"We have a total of 10 different groups, most of those from China, looking to set up some sort of Asian Carp processing plant here," said Peoria County's Rural Economic Development Director John Hamman.

Hamman estimates that it will bring an estimated 125-150 jobs, while pumping millions into the local economy.

"Every part of the fish will be used," said Rick Swan with the Peoria Chamber of Commerce. "The head is a delicacy--they use it in soup, the meat they use for products and food, the pituitary gland they use in medical research, and the excrement they make into fertilizer."

Officials expect the plans for a news processing center to move forward within the next couple months.

Local chefs are finding their share of the abundance. Tuesday several area chefs attending an Asian Carp preparation workshop led by Clint Carter from Carter's Fish Market. They learned how to prepare the fish for local residents to enjoy.