WICKLIFFE, Ky. — May is Asian Pacific American Heritage month, a time to celebrate the achievements of Asian Americans.

What You Need To Know

  •  Two Rivers Fisheries exports thousands of pounds of invasive Asian carp every week

  •  The fishery pays local fishermen to catch the invasive species, cutting down on the population in nearby rivers and lakes

  •  Two Rivers Fisheries is also working to create pet and human food products that contain carp

  • Several more Asian business owners are planning to open up shop in Wickliffe, Kentucky, to help industrialize the area's Asian carp

In far Western Kentucky, one Chinese American is single-handedly solving a major environmental issue of an invasive species of fish through her pursuit of the American dream.

Angie Yu grew up in rural Northern China, but she’s made her home a long way from there — in Wickliffe, Kentucky.

Right on the western border of the Bluegrass state, she’s turning what many call a “trash fish” into treasure.

The convergence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, along with the proximity to Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, led her to settle in Wickliffe. Invasive Asian carp have overtaken the waters.

Yu’s company, Two Rivers Fisheries, is working to cut down on the species in the area by taking in and processing thousands of fish a day.

“Asian carp has no stomach, so they eat a lot of fish, and also, they grow very fast, and they spawn a lot every year. So in the past 40 years, all this freshwater was covered by Asian carp,” Yu explained. “The problem is too many. If we keep it at a right population, this is still a good food source for human beings.”

Though Americans don’t typically eat carp, Yu explains that it’s a popular food in other parts of the world, namely Asia and the Middle East.

“This fish’s nutritious value is very, very close to salmon,” she said. “Very good fish — they are not bottom eaters. They are on top, they’re jumping. They are not on the bottom.”

With a background of importing and exporting goods to and from China, Yu decided to begin her carp exporting business a decade ago. Since 2013, her fishery has provided work for local fishers and processing jobs within the community, while exporting millions of pounds of the carp overseas.

Yu says retailers in China need the carp that comes from Kentucky now more than ever, after a 10-year fishing ban was placed on China’s longest river in 2021.

When the pandemic slowed down international exports, Yu had to get creative. She’s bought machinery to extract fish meal and oil from parts of the carp that can’t be eaten, to be used in pet foods. She’s also working to produce pet treats.

Once the first Asian American to settle in the city of Wickliffe, along with her husband, Yu says now, other Asian business owners are planning to plant roots in the small Kentucky city. Seven Asian businesses are currently working to buy space to work alongside her, industrializing the carp industry, producing human and pet food products on-site.

“We will reduce, reuse, redefine Asian carp,” Yu said, as she plans to turn the once problem into a solution, creating jobs, a booming industry and a new perspective.