Export business uses local waterways, ecological challenge to create jobs & economic opportunity

December 01, 2013

A fish export business in western Kentucky is utilizing local waterways to create jobs, feed the global population, and provide a solution to an invasive freshwater fish species through international trade.

Two Rivers Fisheries opened for operations in Wickliffe, KY, in June 2013 to process and export all varieties of Asian carp, including yellow, bighead, silver, and grass carp, along with buffalo, catfish, and other freshwater fish. The fishery currently has 17 full- and part-time employees and contracts 20-25 professional fishermen to harvest fish from the nearby Mississippi and Ohio rivers, as well as Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. The fish are brought in live to the Wickliffe facility, then processed, flash-frozen, boxed, and shipped to destinations around the world.

Asian carp have been an invasive species in Kentucky’s waterways since the early 1980s, causing numerous ecological and environmental problems. They are quick to multiply but traditionally thrown back if caught by local fishermen. However, in Asia the fish are a delicacy, and fish, especially carp, are also an indispensable component in the Chinese New Year celebration. By processing and exporting the carp instead of simply eliminating the population, Two Rivers Fisheries is not only controlling the epidemic population in Kentucky, but also using what has been a lasting problem in the region as a valuable natural resource to generate commerce, jobs, and economic opportunity for western Kentucky.

“We get all that we can out of the water and feed the world and other countries, instead of just eliminating the fish,” said Operations Manager Jeff Smith. “We have a positive impact on the community and the environment because we’re helping to control the population.”

The Delta Regional Authority provided Two Rivers Fisheries with a SEDAP investment of more than $300,000 in 2012, which allowed the Ballard County Economic & Industrial Development Board to make improvements on the building where Two Rivers is located.

Today, contracted fishermen bring in between 12,000 and 15,000 pounds of fish to the facility daily, and Two Rivers has shipped out more than half a million pounds of fish products to consumers ranging from southeast Asian restaurants and families to the Kentucky and Illinois Departments of Fish and Wildlife since opening for operations in June. The fishery also recently opened a fish market and culinary kitchen, catering meals and selling fresh and frozen fish. In the future, Two Rivers is planning on expanding their facility to add different processes, creating an estimated 50 additional jobs within the next year and a half.