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Food-Fish Aquaculture in Minnesota

Photo: Cover of 2017 Food-Fish Aquaculture in Minnesota Synthesis

Producing baitfish and providing fish for stocking have been the major fish-rearing activities in Minnesota. However, the growth of food-fish aquaculture businesses in the United States has increased the need for more specific information on how
food-fish aquaculture might best be developed in cool and cold climates like Minnesota. To address this need, Minnesota Sea Grant held a workshop to examine the status, trends and future for raising food-fish such as Walleye, Atlantic Salmon, trout and shrimp in Minnesota in 2017. The major question posed to workshop participants was:

Can an environmentally responsible and sustainable food-fish aquaculture industry be established in Minnesota and, if so, what might be the best ways to proceed?

The answer was "yes," but it will take a balanced, thoughtful and collaborative approach among many stakeholders. The synthesis that resulted from the
workshop captures the main points discussed by presenters, panel members and participants and is organized around the workshop's themes:

  1. Prioritizing production strategies and species

  2. Identifying research needs and information gaps

  3. Examining policy and regulatory issues

Presentations and discussions about production strategies favored recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), followed by flow-through systems. The traditional dug and natural ponds used in Minnesota for baitfish rearing were thought to be ineffective for food-fish since they rely on ambient water temperatures, which would make producing food-fish a lengthy process in Minnesota’s cold climate.

Workshop participants favored the idea of raising Walleye even though aquaculture systems have not yet been developed for their commercial production. The Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility in Bayfield, Wisconsin, is experimenting with Walleye and hybrids in RAS. Yellow Perch was also preferred, but consistent rearing and economic returns were concerns. Atlantic Salmon and Rainbow Trout are species with established markets that are well-adapted for growth in cool and cold environments. Shrimp aquaculture facilities are being developed in southwestern Minnesota using an intense shallow water raceway system with zero water discharge. In these systems, biofilters remove nutrients; the salt remains inside of the system to be reused.

Research needs and information gaps spanned social and economic issues, and biological questions. Participants suggested Minnesota needs a food-fish aquaculture plan and a market study to determine purchasing decisions, species preference, price sensitivity, demand for local fish and industry growth potential. They said consumers need unbiased information on aquaculture so they can make informed decisions. Biological questions touched on nutrition, broodstock and breeding, disease control, facility designs and technologies.

A majority of participants agreed the regulatory climate for food-fish aquaculture in Minnesota is fair, supportive and allows flexibility. Along with a plan and a market analysis, participants said it could be useful to develop a Minnesota Aquaculture Association that can work on policies and foster success in the industry. Funding to support the food-fish aquaculture industry in Minnesota will help to ensure the industry's success, as will working with citizens to improve the social license for aquaculture in Minnesota.

The workshop and its synthesis were supported by a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Sea Grant College Program. The synthesis and videos of keynote presentations are available at www.seagrant.umn.edu/aquaculture/workshop2017.

By Don Schreiner
January 2018

Return to January 2018 Seiche

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