Aquaculture Fin Fish Species

Important Aquaculture Fish Species

Updated May 2015

By Dan Burden, content specialist, AgMRC, Iowa State University, djburden@iastate.edu.; with prior revisions and original contributions from C. Greg Lutz, specialist and professor, LSU Ag Center, glutz@agcenter.lsu.edu.

Barramundi

Bluegill and Sunfish

Catfish

Golden Shiner

Hybrid Striped Bass

Koi/Carp

Largemouth Bass

 Salmon

Sturgeon

Tilapia

Brook, Brown, and Rainbow Trout

Walleye

Yellow Perch 

Fish species well suited to closed recirculating systems make up what is known in the science as “finfish aquaculture,” these species include: tilapia, hybrid striped bass, barramundi (“Australian sea bass”), yellow perch, sturgeon and eel.  Other species including walleyes, trout, catfish, largemouth bass, koi/carp, shiners, bluegills and sunfish can be raised in these systems, but may be more efficiently and economically produced in outdoor pond systems.  Fish species well suited to outdoor pond systems include: tilapia, yellow perch, walleyes, trout, catfish, largemouth bass, koi/carp, shiners, bluegills and sunfish. Other species including hybrid striped bass can be raised in these systems, but may be more efficiently and economically raised in an indoor recirculating system.

American Eel

Although not popular as a food fish in the United States, eels are considered a delicacy in many European and Asian countries. Traditionally, these fish have been harvested from the wild at marketable size, but young eels are now widely captured and cultured to market size. Global production of eels (Anguilla spp.) increased nearly 20-fold from 1950 to 2007 (Crook 2010), and 90-95 percent of current production is attributed to aquaculture of wild-caught young (FAO 2009, Crook 2010).

Eel species have provoked little commercial interest in the United States in recent decades. The 2005 Census of Aquaculture reported that three eel farms, one each in Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, were in operation. Other facilities have operated in other states over the past several decades, but the unique reliance of eel aquaculture on a supply of wild seed stock has proven to be a serious constraint for commercial operations. Because most of the world considers eel a gourmet item, this species could potentially be a high-value export and niche market product.  Due to declining stocks, there is increasing commercial interest among aquaculture producers.  Eel farming could be quite profitable, but only if some sort of captive reproductive technology can be developed.

The distribution of the American eel (Anguilla rostrata) includes the entire eastern seaboard of the United States, southeastern Canada and the Gulf of Mexico. Eel can be found as far inland as the Great Lakes.

Eels are referred to as a catadromous (the opposite of anadromous) and amphihaline species, meaning that they spend part of their life in the ocean, then part of their life in freshwater and then they migrate from freshwater to the ocean once more to spawn. Adult eels move from rivers into the ocean in the fall, traveling to a region in the southwest part of the North Atlantic called the Sargasso Sea. After spawning, the adults die and the larvae travel on ocean currents back toward the mainland, feeding and growing along the way. Eel larvae undergo three stages during this oceanic period, reaching the coast as glass eels and elvers. Elvers are migratory, reaching estuaries and stream mouths in the spring and then eventually traveling up rivers. Eels may spend anywhere from 8 to 30 years in freshwater as they grow and ultimately mature.

Aquaculture production of juvenile eels for re-stocking programs or grow-out to adult fish for meat products is a well-established industry in the United Kingdom, France, the Scandinavian countries, Morocco, Australia, China, Taiwan and Japan. Glass eels are preferred over elvers for stocking, primarily because they are easier to transport and to wean unto artificial diets. Roughly 2.5 kg of glass eels are required to produce one metric ton of marketable live eels, at a preferred market size of seven eels per kg (averaging about 1/3 pound each). Glass eels must be gradually weaned off natural food (minced fish or fish eggs) and trained to artificial diets. Under optimum conditions, when stocked as glass eels, farmed eels can reach market size in 18 months or less. To attain these results, high-protein (42-49 percent) diets are required, but feed conversions are very economical, generally in the range of 1.0 to 1.8.

Eel is probably not in demand as a U.S. seafood product due to its “snake-like” persona and a lack of educated consumers. If markets could be developed, however, eels have the potential to become one of the highest-quality, highest-value aquaculture products because the science for raising the fish is well established. The most promising approach for U.S. producers would probably involve establishment of production facilities near large ethnic Asian or European markets. In certain regions, economical production might be accomplished with outdoor facilities, but in others, the preferred technology would involve indoor closed loop systems, as has been successfully demonstrated with North American live markets for tilapia.

Eel farming takes one of two general forms - high-intensity recirculating tank systems, which are typically indoor facilities, or intensive pond-based operations, often incorporating greenhouse covers during colder months of the year. Open-pond grow-out of eels can be successful under a variety of conditions. In temperate regions of Japan, eel prices actually justify the cost of covering ponds with greenhouse structures and even heating the water during winter months. Pond production densities may reach as much as 20 kg/cubic meter, and aeration is generally utilized to maximize yields. A good rule of thumb for this type of intensive pond culture is to have a water exchange capacity of 4000 cubic meters per day (an average flow of 730 gallons per minute) for every 100 metric tons (220,000 pounds) of production. Much lower exchange rates can still result in profitable production, however.

Recirculating systems are well-suited for eel production, especially since eels tend to tolerate very high densities and associated high levels of ammonia and comparatively low PH conditions. In Europe, where most production relies on recirculating systems, densities of up to 120 kg of eels per cubic meter are not uncommon. Exchange rates are typically in the range of 5 to 8 percent daily. Investment costs, and risk, are high with this type of enterprise, but technology suitable for recirculating production of eels is available and can be employed virtually anywhere one can find a reliable supply of electricity and suitable make-up water. The economics of this production approach depend, however, on a dependable supply of glass eels or elvers, access to inputs such as high protein diets and approved health management products, and suitable market demand within 1 to 2 days transport time. In most of the U.S., these markets will be comprised of urban populations of Asian and European ancestry with an appreciation for eels as a delicacy.
Current research suggests that commercial catches of the American eel and related species in Europe and Asia are rapidly declining, indicating that they are in jeopardy. There are several fisheries for eels in the U.S., focusing on glass eels and elvers (for sale as stocking animals for commercial farms primarily in Asia and Europe), juveniles (yellow eels), and adults moving downstream to return to the sea (silver eels). Elver and glass eel fisheries still persist in several locations in North America, with market prices reaching as much as $2200 per pound of live animals (USFWS 2010 "Fish Facts - American Eel", Trotter 2012). International trade in glass eels has exploded over the past two decades as eel farms in Japan and other Asian countries exhausted supplies of their local species, Anguilla japonica.

The bulk of U.S. eel catches in recent years has occurred in central Atlantic coastal states. Official statistics (NMFS 2011) suggest that domestic landings of American eel increased from 330 metric tons in 2009 (slightly below the 5-year average) to 385 metric tons in 2010 (slightly above the 5-year average). The value of these landings also increased, from $1.87 million to $2.45 million, over the same 12-month period. These figures may underestimate the actual landings, based on export data from the U.S. Trade Internet System (see below). In either case, U.S. eel landings are comparatively small when compared to the global production of eels, which was estimated to be over 275,000 metric tons from aquaculture operations and 8,591 metric tons from capture fisheries in 2009 (FAO 2010).  There is no information on catch, imports or exports in the most recent 2013 (2014) Census of Aquaculture.


Resources / Other links:

Barramundi 

BarramundiBarramundi (Lates calcarifer), commonly known as Asian sea bass, also is known as giant perch, giant sea perch, Australian sea bass, Barra, Barramundi Perch, Bekti, Cockup, Giant Perch, Nairfish, Palmer and by a variety of names in other languages. The name barramundi was originally associated with a different species, derived from a native-Australian name, but was used in a 1980’s marketing campaign and has since become synonymous with Lates calcarifer. Barramundi should not be confused with the sub-Saharan Africa Nile perch, occasionally mislabeled and marketed in some countries as barramundi.

This species is of considerable commercial importance as a recreational sport fish, commercial (wild-harvest) catch and as a large-scale commercial aquaculture species. It is raised in a number of countries on the Indian Ocean rim, as well as by commercial ventures in Israel and Poland. Barramundi is a relatively recent commercial import and aquaculture species in the United States. Within Southeast Asia, it is the largest commercially marketed aquaculture fish, with recent production in excess of 30,000 tons. The U.S. industry produces a mere 800 tons a year from a single facility; an Australian venture, Australis Aquaculture, LLC, Turners Falls, MA. Australia has a well-developed barramundi consumer culture where the fish is highly regarded as a sport- and food-fish.

In the wild, this coastal and estuarine species has an interesting lifecycle. Barramundi is generally classed as a ”catadromous” species, meaning that it lives in fresh water, but moves to inter-tidal zones to spawn. Wild fry feed on the tiny crustaceans and plankton abundant in these ecosystems.

Some lifecycle details make barramundi highly adaptable to commercial aquaculture systems. Older fish can thrive in both purely freshwater or saltwater environments within a temperature range of 26 to 30°C (78.8 to 86°F); most wild fish travel down fresh-water streams where they mate and spawn in brackish (some salt content) estuarine environments.  Brackish water is required for egg fertilization and the successful production of fry.

Barramundi essentially begin life as a hermaphrodite with a distinct male sexual morphology, and may then sex-reverse to an egg-producing female after a single spawning season. Within five years, almost an entire population will exhibit full sex-reversal to females. For this reason, almost all large fish in captivity or wild-caught by sport-fishermen are females. With captive fish there are exceptions, some may not undergo sex-reversion, or conversely, may do so at a smaller size. An Australian government fisheries management report states that hatchery juveniles, between 50 and 100 millimeters in length (~3/16 to 3/8-inch), can be reared to a table size of 400 to 600 grams (14.12 to 21.16 ounces/pounds), within 12 months and to 3.0 kilograms (6.61 pounds), within 18 to 24 months (most U.S. market-average barramundi are between 1.5 to 2.0 pounds).

Most commercial operators purchase fry from dedicated rearing facilities. The fish exhibits a high feed conversion ratio (feed-conversion efficiency), greatly increasing return on investment (ROI) for commercial producers. A Queensland Australia government industry support site reports that the amount of feed required by a fish decreases rapidly with a decrease in water temperature. Maximum intakes occur at 27 to 29°C and decreases to almost zero at 20°C. Feed conversion ratios (total weight of fish produced per total dry weight of feed consumed) of 1.2:1 to 1.8:1 can be expected in well-managed operations at optimum temperatures.

As a food fish, barramundi is an important established species in Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian and Australian cuisines. This makes it a potentially important American aquaculture species considering the growing Asian-American population and general American appreciation for Asian, Pacific-Rim or American West-Coast cuisine. Barramundi has firm flesh with large, moist flakes and a sweet, buttery flavor profile. The flesh has only a few bones which are large and easy to remove. Small barramundi have a milder taste than larger barramundi. The skin is also edible and nicely crisps. Barramundi has flesh which is a pearly-pink when raw (Sushi name: Akami) and white when cooked. The fish can be baked, broiled, steamed, poached, grilled or deep fried. Considering that barramundi is very highly regarded and featured in many signature dishes, a well-crafted marketing campaign could easily move fresh American aquaculture fish to white-table restaurants, as well as the fresh-fish counters in major grocery chains.

Considering that barramundi is a very highly regarded and respected species that is featured in many signature dishes across a range of ethnic and contemporary western cuisines, a well-crafted marketing campaign could easily move fresh American aquaculture-produced fish to white-table restaurants, as well as fresh-fish counters in major grocery chains. Additionally, the sustainability issue and position on imported products by the major environmental and consumer-advocate watchdog groups should be a critically positive marketing point, strongly highlighted throughout the distribution-to-end-user value chain for U.S.-produced fish.

Resources / Other links:

Bluegill and Sunfish

bluegillThe distribution of bluegills (Lepomis macrochirus) includes most of southern Canada and the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. This species has also been introduced throughout the rest of the United States and in many other countries, including South Africa, Morocco, Mauritius and the Philippines.

Bluegills prefer clear warm pools in streams and thrive in lakes and ponds, usually inhabiting shallow, weedy waters. Bluegills and related “panfish” are common and highly prized game fish throughout the United States.
 
These fish are widely cultured in private impoundments, mainly to provide recreational fishing or for stocking as a prolific forage fish in combination with gamefish species such as largemouth bass. Some states allow commercial culture and sale of bluegill and/or certain other sunfishes and their hybrids, but many others prohibit commerce in food-size fish due to concerns over the potential for illegal harvests of wild stocks.

The term sunfish generally refers not only to bluegill but also to other closely related species, most of which are in the genus Lepomis. The most commonly recognized of these include the redear sunfish, the green sunfish, the pumpkinseed and the warmouth. Hybrids between bluegill and other sunfish are often produced due to superior culture characteristics, the most important of which is a reduction in unwanted reproduction which can lead to stunting. Other advantages of hybrid sunfish include improved growth rates, higher acceptance of artificial feeds, increased hardiness and higher vulnerability to angling.

According to the 2005 USDA Census of Aquaculture, 217 farms in the United States raised sunfish, including fingerlings and fry (109 farms), stockers (63 farms) and foodsize fish (54 farms). Fingerlings and fry for stocking represent the largest segment of sales with a 2005 value of $3.3 million, compared to total sales of nearly $5 million for all types and sizes of sunfish. With 13 reported sunfish farms producing fingerlings and fry, Ohio had total sales of $590 thousand in 2005. Alabama placed second with 8 farms producing just under 2 million fish, which generated total sales of $425 thousand. Sales of stocker sunfish totaled $695 thousand in 2005, and sales of foodsize sunfish totaled $950 thousand. Informal surveys of aquaculture contacts in various states, taken in conjunction with the Aquaculture Census data, suggest there are currently between 300 and 400 commercial operations producing bluegill and other sunfish in the U.S.  The 2013 (2014) Census of Aquaculture lists 91 farms with production valued at $5,711,000 split almost evenly between stocking fingerlings and brood fry.

Typically, the product to be sold in most sunfish culture facilities is a live fingerling of suitable size for stocking. Adult bluegill (and/or related species) are stocked into open ponds and allowed to spawn naturally. Fingerlings are usually raised to a marketable size in the same pond and harvested before they deplete the natural food items in the aquatic environment. Bluegill have become widely established beyond their natural range largely as a result of their tolerance of a broad range of environmental conditions, but certain guidelines must be followed for successful commercial culture. Breeding stock should be placed in ponds in early spring, before temperatures reach 69 degrees Farenheit. Best results are obtained when 40 to 50 pairs of fish are stocked per acre. Under culture conditions, optimal temperatures for embryo development are 72 to 81 degrees Farenheit while 81 degrees Farenheit is optimal for growth of adults. The pH should remain between 6.5 and 8.5 for all life stages. Although dissolved oxygen levels of less than 1.0 ppm may be tolerated for short periods, a level of greater than 5.0 ppm should normally be maintained, with mechanical aeration if necessary.

If high densities of fingerlings are present, or if fish are to be raised to larger sizes for human consumption, the use of artificial feeds will be required. Protein requirements are generally somewhat higher than those of catfish, so fingerling and grow-out diets should have at least 40 percent and 36 percent protein, respectively.

If they are being raised for human consumption, growth rates and feed conversion ratios for bluegill and other sunfish will be inferior to those of most commercial aquaculture species. Two years or more are often required to raise these fish to a marketable size (minimum 1/2 pound per fish), with approximately 4 pounds of feed consumed for each pound of fish harvested. Unwanted reproduction is also a persistent problem when growing these fish to larger sizes in ponds. bluegill and other sunfish are adaptable to cage culture and to recirculating production systems, but both approaches involve higher capital costs, more expensive diets and greater risk.

The wide demand for fingerlings and relatively small number of producers throughout the U.S. suggests a significant marketing opportunity for potential producers of bluegill and other sunfish. In most cases, however, a number of legal, technical and biological constraints must be addressed for economic success. Learning curves must be confronted in terms of brood-stock management and fingerling or food-fish production, and markets must be developed on a case by case basis.


Resources / Other Links:

  • Aquaculture America 2005. - Results from preliminary pond production trials in West Virginia.
  • Aquaculture Resources - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), fisheries market news and statistic summaries (aquaculture results by catch), available grants, new marine product food safety guidelines, endangered natural stocks, export guidelines for shipments to the European Union, links and addresses of many National Marine Fisheries Support Offices, and other information. Site includes information on Department of Commerce Aquaculture Policy, the National Aquaculture Act of 1980, recent NOAA Aquaculture Policy and breaking research and legislative news.
  • Baitfish Production in the United States; G. Burtle, University of Georgia; L. Dorman, University of Arkansas; and L. Gray, University of Arkansas - History of the industry, overview of production systems and marketing strategies.
  • Bluegill Sunfish Production in Missouri, University of Missouri Extension. - Production methods for bluegill culture in Missouri. PDF Version.
  • Census of Aquaculture (2005), USDA, 2006.
  • Census of Aquaculture (2012-2013), USDA, 2014.
  • Aquaculture, Economic Research Service, USDA.
  • FishLink.com - An Internet information and resource for aquaculture and fisheries. Contains directories, news, statistics and other related information.
  • Fishing for Bluegill, Iowa DNR - How to find the best spot to fish during every season, and what type of tackle works the best.
  • Great Lakes Aquaculture (Sea Grant): Aquaculture and Sea Food Safety - Overview of various programs and initiatives of the Great Lakes Sea Grant Program. Sea Grant researchers are studying several fish species suitable for aquaculture in the Midwest, including walleye, sturgeon, hybrid striped bass, sunfish, bait fish, yellow perch, tilapia, bluegill, crappie, bullhead, crayfish and a variety of salmonids. A variety of techniques are being examined, including pond culture, cage culture and indoor contained systems. The Great Lakes Sea Grant Network also has developed a regional resource list of aquaculture publications and audiovisuals for current and potential aquaculturists.
  • Hybrid Bluegill, Kentucky State University. - Background on hybrid bluegill production in the Midwestern region.
  • National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Commercial Services: Aquaculture and Seafood - Contains leads, current and historical trade statistics, import requirements, news and regulatory information. The mission of the Trade and Commercial Service staff is to promote and facilitate trade for the U.S. seafood and aquaculture industries by expanding existing markets and opening new ones for the U.S. producers and processors.
  • NCRAC Sunfish Culture Guide - NCRAC’s Sunfish Culture Guide – a thorough review of the technical aspects of sunfish culture.

Catfish 

Channel catfish continue to be one of the most important farm-raised freshwater species in the United States, particularly in the South. As of 2010, catfish was the sixth most popular fish or seafood consumed in the United States; only shrimp, canned tuna, salmon, tilapia and pollock were more popular. That year, Americans consumed an average of 15.8 pounds of seafood per person, and 0.8 pounds of that was catfish. This value, however, represented a significant reduction from the 0.97 pounds consumed per person in 2006, the year in which tilapia surpassed catfish to take the fifth-place spot on the list of most-consumed seafood products (National Fisheries Institute 2011).

Farm-raised channel catfish generally reproduce naturally in designated spawning ponds from which eggs are collected and transported to hatcheries. Fry are hatched and reared indoors, with the resulting fingerlings released into ponds for grow-out. Most farm-raised catfish are cultured in ponds with constructed levees. These levees form above-ground ponds four to six feet deep, usually of 10 to 20 water surface acres each. Development of special diets has greatly improved the taste of the finished product, eliminating the “fishy” or “muddy” flavor that once was associated with pond-reared catfish early in the development of the industry. To ensure freshness, fish are seined from ponds and sent live to processing plants in aerated tank trucks. Processing plants produce a variety of wholesale offerings including whole fish, strips, nuggets, steaks, fillets and pre-marinated and breaded products. Properly processed and frozen, farmed catfish retain excellent product quality for two to four months.

As of January 1, 2012, approximately 89,400 acres of ponds were used for catfish production in the United States, down 10 percent from the previous year's 99,600 acres. Inventory numbers also declined during the same period for several categories of catfish, including large foodsize fish and fingerlings. Numbers of large and small stockers on hand on January 1, 2012 were up 4 and 34 percent, respectively, but the number of fingerlings was down 21 percent when compared to estimates at the beginning of the previous year (NASS 2012). These trends suggest continued decreases in production may occur over the next several years. The number of catfish operations decreased to 718 in 2012, with 191 operations leaving the business in 2011 (NASS 2012). However, there is considerable disparity between data sources.  The 2012-2013 (2014) Census of Aquaculture reported only 125 active farming operations constituting 12,671 pond-acres of production.

Catfish producers in the United States had total sales of $423 million during 2011, up 5 percent from the previous year's $403 million and increasing in value for the second consecutive year. The four top producing states--Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas--accounted for 95 percent of total U.S. sales. As many growers left the business and liquidated their inventories, the sales total of all food-size fish reached $391 million, a 4 percent increase over 2010 sales (NASS 2012).

In 2011, 334 million pounds of U.S. farm-raised catfish were processed, 29 percent less than the 472 million pounds processed in 2010. The 2011 average price received for processed fish was $3.52 per pound, up 92 cents from the previous year (NASS 2011). Down from a high in 2011, the 2012-2013 (2014) Census of Aquaculture reported 695 farms producing $375,865,000 worth of product, $54, 337,000 of which went into the human-food direct-sale, processed-food or otherwise distributed-food value chain.

According to the USDA, the total weight of fresh and frozen U.S. catfish exported during 2011 was 722,000 pounds, down 23 percent from the previous year. During the same period, imports of catfish and similar species increased from 138 million pounds to 204 million pounds. Both trends probably reflected impacts of higher prevailing prices for domestically processed catfish.

Over the past decade, input price increases have drastically reduced the profitability of catfish production. Overall, acreage has declined by more than 50 percent during the period from December 2001 to December 2011. In spite of recent high prices at the pond bank, new or prospective producers should not assume there will be a willing buyer at harvest time. Most current catfish production is sold to large processors, and new producers may be too far from a processor to economically market their catfish through this low-premium conduit.

New processing plants that locate in areas with little existing production and rely on promises of new production will almost certainly fail within the first few years. The reasons for these failures include: (1) limited cash flow; (2) harvesting and logistical problems in transporting fish to the processing plant; (3) inconsistent fish supplies; and (4) established producers in the area who already have specialty markets for live fish that offer better prices. Also, generally, it takes 18 to 30 months in construction and production time for a farmer to produce his first crop of fish. For this reason, the scarcity of start-up capital or high interest rates will limit or prevent the development of new production acreage, as well as make it more difficult to compete with existing processors for market share.

Even in areas with established production and processing, farmers should continually investigate new markets. Although perhaps limited in size and availability, these markets can be more profitable than wholesale sales to processors. Alternative markets include live-haulers, on-farm sales, fee fishing and local sales (Catfish Production, NASS).

The overall outlook for established catfish producers and processors is mixed; they will face a number of difficult issues in the coming years. Since corn and soybean meal prices continue to be high, feed costs will remain high. Imports of competing seafood products, and the general health of the economy and its impact on restaurant sales will also affect consumer demand.

 Resources / Other Links:
  • Aquaculture, Economic Research Service, USDA.
  • Aquaculture Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - Fisheries market news and statistic summaries (aquaculture results by catch, available grants, new marine product food safety guidelines, endangered natural stocks, export guidelines for shipments to the European Union, links and addresses of many National Marine Fisheries Support Offices, and other information). Site includes information on Department of Commerce Aquaculture Policy, the National Aquaculture Act of 1980, recent NOAA Aquaculture Policy and breaking research and legislative news.
  • Aquaculture Sold: 2007 and 2002, 2007 Census of Agriculture, USDA, 2009
  • Battle Of The Bottom Feeder: U.S., Vietnam In Catfish Fight; Parallels; NPR; December 2013 - Vietnamese imports now make up 60 percent of the U.S. catfish market, which has helped drive many American catfish farms out of business.
  • Catfish, Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS), Foreign Ag Service (FAS), USDA, 2010.
  • Catfish Farmers of America - This nonprofit trade association was formed by farm-raised catfish producers, suppliers, processors and marketers to promote the U.S. catfish industry.
  • Catfish Processing, National Ag Statistics Service (NASS), USDA - This monthly report contains the most current information on farm-raised catfish, including round weight purchased, prices paid, inventory, quantity sold, price, imports and exports.
  • Catfish Production, NASS, USDA, 2012.
  • Census of Aquaculture (2005), USDA, 2006.
  • Census of Aquaculture (2012-2013), USDA, 2014.
  • Fisheries Statistics Division, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), NOAA - Contains leads, current and historical trade statistics, import requirements, news and regulatory information. This mission of the Trade and Commercial Service staff is to promote and facilitate trade for the U.S. seafood and aquaculture industries by expanding existing markets and opening new ones for the U.S. producers and processors.
  • Import and Exports of Fishery Products 2011, Fisheries Statistics Division, NMFS, 2012.
  • Top 10 Consumed Seafood, National Fisheries Institute, aboutseafood.com, 2010 - Lists the top ten species consumed in the United States by pounds per person.
  • 2010 U.S. Catfish Database, Auburn University and Mississippi State University, 2011 - This publication is a collection of data about the U.S. farm-raised catfish industry, including the production and processing sectors of the industry.
  • Catfish, North Carolina State University Aquaculture Extension.
  • Catfish, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center.
  • Catfish, Southern Regional Aquaculture Center, Texas A&M University.
  • Catfish 2010 Part II: Health and Production Practices for Foodsize Catfish in the United States in 2009, APHIS, USDA, 2011 - This study takes a broad look at management, production, and health practices across the various facets of the catfish industry, including breeding, hatching, and foodsize-fish growout.
  • Catfish Production, NASS, USDA - This report, issued twice yearly, contains the grower inventory numbers by size groups for selected states, including number of operations and water acres.
  • Commercial Catfish Production, Mississippi State University Extension Service.
  • Texas Catfish Production in Ponds, Texas Cooperative Extension, Texas A&M University, 2005
  • Texas Aquaculture Cooperative, Markham, Texas - With catfish farmers scattered throughout parts of southern Texas, a dozen banded together in 2002 to create the Texas Aquaculture Cooperative, which has grown to include 35 producers and a frozen catfish processing plant.
  • Top 10 Consumed Seafood, National Fisheries Institute, aboutseafood.com, 2010 - Lists the top ten species consumed in the United States by pounds per person.

Golden Shiner 

The distribution of the golden shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas) includes virtually all of the United States and southern Canada east of the Rocky Mountains. Additionally, it occurs west to the Dakotas and Texas. The preferred habitat of golden shiners includes shallow, weedy, quiet regions of lakes and ponds where they move in large schools. Wherever they occur, they are a primary food source for black bass, pike and other game fish. They consume a wide variety of plant and animal matter including filamentous algae, and aquatic and terrestrial insects.

Golden shiners currently are the most important species to the nation’s bait fish industry.  In 2005, 76 farms in the United States reported raising golden shiners, posting total sales of $17.1 million. Arkansas remained the home of the largest number of farms, but that number declined from 35 in 1998 to 22 in 2005. Likewise, the number of farms in Maine producing golden shiners declined from 26 (1998) to 2 (2005). However, the number of farms in Minnesota expanded from 5 to 14 during the same period, making that state the second largest producer of golden shiners. (Census of Aquaculture 2005.)  More recent statistics are generally lacking, due to suspension of the aquaculture census in 2011 due to budget constraints.  Industry observers suggest there has been a contraction in recent years, although not as dramatic as that seen in the catfish industry. The 2012-2013 (2014) Census of Aquaculture reported 53 farms producing 523,428 fish constituting $14,286,000 in sales.

Golden shiner brood stock are typically spawned using special mats in outdoor spawning ponds.  Eggs are deposited in the latex-coated coconut fiber mats which are then brought to indoor hatchery tanks for hatching under controlled conditions (temperature, oxygen and water quality).   A single female may produce up to 200,000 eggs and may spawn more than once during the breeding season. Newly-hatched fry are stocked back into ponds at up to 1 - 2 million per acre, and fed a finely-ground commercial meal for the first several weeks after stocking.  Subsequent transfers to other, lower-density ponds for grow-out to market size usually occur some 4 to 16 weeks after stocking.  As size increases, the diet shifts to crumbled and pelleted rations.  Density is a major tool to allow for control over growth, which in turn allows growers to provide various sizes of fish to customers at specific times of year.

Golden shiner ponds are characterized by comparatively low yields, and harvests of 450 pounds per acre are generally required for profitability.  Fixed costs of over $1 per pound are typical in shiner production, so the impacts of lower-than-projected yields and unexpected production problems can be catastrophic from an economic perspective.

Marketing is the most problematic aspect of the golden shiner business (and the live bait business in general).  It has been stated that the weather on five weekends during each spring (and therefore the demand for live bait) can determine profitability for the entire year for golden shiner producers.  Successful shiner producers generally need to be able to deliver a variety of sizes at various times of the year. Seasonal preferences are the rule in golden shiner markets – smaller fish are in demand in the springtime, medium-large fish are popular in the summer, and large sizes are most marketable in the winter months.  But there are exceptions to the rule, with certain markets demanding specific sizes and quantities, often on short notice.

Due to the dominance of long-standing distribution networks, new producers often find it very difficult to enter markets.  Since a live product is not worth much without a distribution system, those producers who can distribute efficiently rule the market.

Problems facing the golden shiner industry include competition from wild bait and artificial lures, as well as increasing scrutiny of interstate commerce in live fish due to concerns over the spread of diseases which could impact wild populations.  Additionally, fewer retailers specialize in live bait today compared to twenty or even ten years ago.  Changing demographics and trends in public opinion regarding the use of live fish as bait may also impact the industry in the future. 

 Resources / Other Links:
  • Alaska Mariculture, Alaska Department of Fish and Game - Alaska state mariculture site includes razor clam restoration information, permit information, overviews of state production and related information.
  • Aquaculture, Economic Research Service, USDA.
  • Aquaculture Certification Council - A nongovernmental body established to certify social, environmental and food safety standards at aquaculture facilities throughout the world. This Missouri nonprofit, nonmember public benefit corporation builds on elements of the voluntary Global Aquaculture Alliance Responsible Aquaculture Program system that combines site inspections and effluent sampling with sanitary controls, therapeutic controls and product traceability.
  • Aquaculture in Hawaii, State Aquaculture Development Program State Department of Agriculture - Hawaii Aquaculture web page, an information source and guide to getting started in aquaculture in Hawaii.
  • Aquamedia, An Internet information and resource for aquaculture and fisheries. Contains directories, news, statistics and other related information.
  • Aquatic Network - Aquaculture topics, educational information, publications and products and services listing.
  • Aquaculture Resources, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - Fisheries market news and statistic summaries (aquaculture results by catch), available grants, new marine product food safety guidelines, endangered natural stocks, export guidelines for shipments to the European Union, links and addresses of many National Marine Fisheries Support Offices, and other information. Site includes information on Department of Commerce Aquaculture Policy, the National Aquaculture Act of 1980, recent NOAA Aquaculture Policy and breaking research and legislative news.
  • Baitfish: Feeds and Feeding Practices. Southern Regional Aquaculture Center Publication No. 121. 4 pp. (pdf) Lochmann, R., N. Stone, and E. Park. 2002.
  • Census of Aquaculture 2005, USDA, 2006.
  • Census of Aquaculture (2012-2013), USDA, 2014.
  • Common Farm-Raised Baitfish. Southern Regional Aquaculture Center Publication No. 120. (pdf) Stone, N., and H. Thomforde. 2001.
  • Dietary Protein and Lipid Requirements of Golden Shiners and Goldfish. 1998. Southern Regional Aquaculture Center Publication No. 124 (pdf)
  • Forage Fish – Introduction and Species. Southern Regional Aquaculture Center Publication No. 140. (pdf) Stone, N. 2008.
  • Golden Shiner Culture: A Reference Profile. University of Florida, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute for Food and Agriculture Publication No. FA-34. 4 pp. (pdf) Lazur, A.M. and F.A. Chapman. 1996.
  • Great Lakes Aquaculture (Sea Grant): Aquaculture and Sea Food Safety - Overview of various programs and initiatives of the Great Lakes Sea Grant Program. Sea Grant researchers are studying several fish species suitable for aquaculture in the Midwest, including walleye, sturgeon, hybrid striped bass, sunfish, bait fish, yellow perch, tilapia, bluegill, crappie, bullhead, crayfish and a variety of salmonids. A variety of techniques are being examined, including pond culture, cage culture and indoor contained systems. The Great Lakes Sea Grant Network also has developed a regional resource list of aquaculture publications and audiovisuals for current and potential aquaculturists.
  • National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Commercial Services: Aquaculture and Seafood - Contains leads, current and historical trade statistics, import requirements, news and regulatory information. This mission of the Trade and Commercial Service staff is to promote and facilitate trade for the U.S. seafood and aquaculture industries by expanding existing markets and opening new ones for the U.S. producers and processors.
  • Pond Dynamics/Aquaculture - The Pond Dynamics/Aquaculture Collaborative Research Support Program (PD/A CRSP) represents an international, multi-disciplinary effort to improve human nutrition through pond aquaculture research. The work of the PD/A CRSP benefits both domestic and international aquaculture.
  • Production Enterprise Budget for Golden Shiners. Southern Regional Aquaculture Center Publication No. 122. (pdf) Stone, N., C. R. Engle and E. Park. 2008.
  • World Aquaculture Society - International society of aquaculturalists working to improve education and communication within the industry.

Hybrid Striped Bass

hybrid striped bassHybrid striped bass are a laboratory cross between striped bass (rockfish) (Morone saxatilis) and white bass (Morone chrysops). The crosses also are known as “wipers.” Hybrid striped bass are not capable of reproducing with one another; however, they may backcross with either striped bass or white bass. Hybrids of this type are produced for their fast growth rate, generally increased harvestable size and offspring vigor. The parent species, as well as the hybrid offspring, are voracious predators and are fed high-protein, grain-based diets to prevent rampant cannibalization in closed production systems.

When they are breeding migrants in freshwater, striped bass are anadromous fish associated with coastal streams. Otherwise, they are coastal saltwater residents. In landlocked freshwater systems, striped bass may run from a lake into a river system, spending the majority of their life cycle in the larger body of water but returning to freshwater streams to spawn. They occur along the Atlantic coast from the St. Lawrence River to the St. Johns River, Florida, as well as the Gulf of Mexico and tributaries in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. They are an important recreational fish species in the United States and have been introduced into many large reservoir systems as a sport fish.

The distribution of white bass includes the St. Lawrence River west through the Great Lakes states from New York to Minnesota, west to South Dakota and south in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys to the Gulf of Mexico. Its natural range has been greatly enhanced as a result of sport-fish stocking programs. White bass are generally found in schools in large streams, lakes and reservoirs. They prefer clear water and tend to be found over sand, rock or gravel bottoms. Spawning begins in the spring as water temperatures approach 55°F to 60°F. A single female may produce up to 500,000 eggs.
 
Currently, production of hybrid striped bass usually begins with “in-house” brood stock or with fingerlings purchased from other producer’s rearing facilities. Fingerlings are reared at 79°F in hard water at a pH maintained at between 6.5 and 8.5 with a dissolved oxygen level above 6.0 ppm. Most hybrids are tank reared, although there is some interest in rearing them in ponds in the southern states.

Hybrid striped bass “wipers” are cultured in private facilities mainly for supply to the restaurant and supermarket trade as a food fish or a fresh or frozen, filleted product. Much is sold as a “whole-fresh” product to high-end restaurants and some is exported by air-freight to European markets. Properly frozen fish have a shelf life of up to four months.

Hybrid striped bass production is rapidly expanding in the United States. Annual production increased from around 400,000 pounds in 1987 to about 11-million pounds in 2005. According to the 2005 Census of Aquaculture, 67 of the 87 farms raising hybrid striped bass in 2005 emphasized the production of food-size fish, with total sales of $27.7 million. A much smaller number of farms, a total of 17, raised stockers. Production growth is a response to some reduction in natural fishery stocks of striped bass, generally increased urban-based market demand for seafood and the development of improved culture techniques for this species. Other countries, including Taiwan, Israel and Italy, have extensive, expanding production systems (Hybrid Striped Bass Production 2004). The 2012-2013 (2014) Census of Aquaculture reported 68 farms with food-fish production (numbers proprietary and not reported) valued at $50,799,000, and 17 farms producing 18,864,000 fish for recreation and restoration stocking programs.

 Resources / Other Links:

  • Alaska Mariculture - Alaska state mariculture site includes razor clam restoration information, permit information, overviews of state production and related information from the Alaskan Department of Fish and Game.
  • Annual Commercial Landing Statistics, Fisheries Statistics, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
  • Aquaculture Certification Council - A nongovernmental body established to certify social, environmental and food safety standards at aquaculture facilities throughout the world. This Missouri nonprofit, nonmember public benefit corporation builds on elements of the voluntary Global Aquaculture Alliance Responsible Aquaculture Program system that combines site inspections and effluent sampling with sanitary controls, therapeutic controls and product traceability.
  • Aquaculture in Hawaii - Hawaii Aquaculture web page, an information source and guide to getting started in aquaculture in Hawaii, presented by the State Aquaculture Development Program, State Department of Agriculture.
  • AquaFish, Collaborative Research Support Program, Oregon State University. The Aquaculture Collaborative Research Support Program represents an international, multi-disciplinary effort to improve human nutrition through pond aquaculture research. The work benefits both domestic and international aquaculture.
  • AquaMedia - An Internet information and resource for aquaculture and fisheries. Contains directories, news, statistics and other related information.
  • Aquatic Network - Aquaculture topics, educational information, publications and products and services listing.
  • Census of Aquaculture (2005), USDA, 2006.
  • Census of Aquaculture (2012-2013), USDA, 2014.
  • Aquaculture, Economic Research Service, USDA.
  • Great Lakes Aquaculture (Sea Grant): Aquaculture and Sea Food Safety - Overview of various programs and initiatives of the Great Lakes Sea Grant Program. Sea Grant researchers are studying several fish species suitable for aquaculture in the Midwest, including walleye, sturgeon, hybrid striped bass, sunfish, bait fish, yellow perch, tilapia, bluegill, crappie, bullhead, crayfish and a variety of salmonids. A variety of techniques are being examined including pond culture, cage culture and indoor contained systems. The Great Lakes Sea Grant Network also has developed a regional resource list of aquaculture publications and audiovisuals for current and potential aquaculturists.
  • Hybrid Striped Bass, North Carolina State University Aquaculture Extension.

Koi / Carp

Koi are ornamental varieties of the common carp. Their natural distribution includes temperate portions of Asia and Europe. Ornamental koi carp are happy in warm water, but they can also tolerate cold winters, and this adaptability has led to their popularity among collectors and water garden enthusiasts throughout many parts of the world, including the United States.  The actual market for ornamental fish in the U.S. is difficult to determine due to the number of hobbyists who sell their product locally to one another and to pet shops. Other sales are targeted nation-wide via the Internet, trade magazines and specialty newsletters. These are very high-value fish and many “sales” are on a cash basis or involve barters.

Nonetheless, juvenile koi are also widely marketed in pet store chains, more or less as a commodity. Water gardening has been one of the fastest growing gardening interests in the U.S. over the past two decades.  As this hobby has grown in popularity, demand for koi and fancy varieties of goldfish has increased rapidly. According to the 2005 Census of Aquaculture, 193 farms in the United States raised koi at that time, with total sales of almost $6.6 million. Florida ranked first in number of farms (24) and total sales ($589,000), while Ohio ranked second in number of farms (15) and California ranked second in total sales ($545,000).

The 2012-2013 (2014) Census of Aquaculture reported carp production from 82 farms producing 5,107,000 fish with production valued at 2,980,000 for food-fish production and $1870,000 for recreation and pond-maintenance stocking.

The maximum lifespan of a koi may easily be 20 to 25 years if properly cared for, and one specimen is on record as having lived over 200 years. Although selective breeding of koi originated in China, most of the development of ornamental strains has occurred in Japan during the past 200 years. Most modern techniques for koi production were also developed in Japan, where these varieties are referred to as Nishikigoi, which translates as “brocaded carp.”  Koi enthusiasts recognize a number of breeds or color variations (including 20 major categories), and organized exhibition shows (similar to dog shows) are common in which individual fish are judged best of breed and best of show.  A regional or national champion koi can be worth an enormous sum of money as breeding stock. 

Under culture conditions, between 81°F and 93°F promotes optimal growth for young koi, while 68°F to 82°F is optimal for adults. The pH should remain between 6.8 and 7.5. Although koi are capable of surviving in warm waters with low oxygen, dissolved oxygen levels above 5.0 ppm are optimal.

Spawning commences in early spring as water temperatures approach 63°F. A single female may produce up to 1,000,000 eggs. Breeders generally stock several males with one female, often of similar coloration, in the hopes of generating higher numbers of interesting or prized color combinations.  Koi fry and fingerlings are usually stocked into ponds to be grown to marketable size (anywhere from 1-2 inches to 1-2 feet in length). When the offspring are large enough to evaluate, the vast majority will be culled or sold into the pet trade, while only a few (typically only a few percent) will exhibit coloration worthy of a potential champion.

Depending on the target market (mass production of garden-pond koi, production of high-value fish from champion lines, or some combination of these extremes), a koi production facility can require moderate to high investment.  If little culling is anticipated and fish will be mass produced, typical pond production facilities and methods suitable for regular carp can be adapted.  Selective breeding and maintenance of high-value breeding stock generally relies on a combination of indoor and outdoor pond facilities.  This requires much less land, but a higher investment in buildings and equipment.

Either approach requires significant market research.  Since the end product is live fish, markets must be located within a reasonable distance to allow for safe transport and minimal stress upon delivery.  Many pet stores and discount chains that carry pond-grade koi obtain their stock from large commercial suppliers, and breaking into these high-volume markets can be difficult or impossible. Local garden centers and independent pet shops may be the most logical place for potential producers to begin evaluating markets for their koi.

Koi can be extremely high-value fish, with koi fanciers usually being equated with orchid collectors, dog or horse breeders, and similar specialists. The price differential, which depends on size and breeding condition, between standard-quality pond fish and prized show-quality fish is extreme. A popular U.S. Web site lists prices for individual (small) 3-inch to 4-inch fish at $4.00 to $24.00 and (largest size grade) 23-inch to 24-inch fish at $660 to $3,000. (Fact Sheet, Ashi Fancy Koi.)  Some prize breeders can sell for well over $100,000.
 Resources / Other Links:

  • Aquaculture, Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA.
  • Aquaculture in Hawaii- Hawaii Aquaculture web page, an information source and guide to getting started in aquaculture in Hawaii, presented by the State Aquaculture Development Program, State Department of Agriculture.
  • Aquaculture Resources - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), fisheries market news and statistic summaries (aquaculture results by catch), available grants, new marine product food safety guidelines, endangered natural stocks, export guidelines for shipments to the European Union, links and addresses of many National Marine Fisheries Support Offices, and other information. Site includes information on Department of Commerce Aquaculture Policy, the National Aquaculture Act of 1980, recent NOAA Aquaculture Policy and breaking research and legislative news.
  • Aquamedia.org - An Internet information and resource for aquaculture and fisheries. Contains Census of Aquaculture (2005), National Ag Statistics Service, USDA, 2006.
  • Census of Aquaculture (2012-2013), USDA, 2014.
  • Fact Sheet, Ashi Fancy Koi.
  • Koi Magazine USA - Primary publication resource of Associated Koi Clubs of America, the koi industry and enthusiasts. Site contains a list of links to equipment suppliers, clubs and private individuals.
  • Ornamental Fish, Aquaculture Sold: 2007 and 2002, 2007 Census of Agriculture - State Data, NASS, USDA, 2009.
  • Pond Dynamics/Aquaculture - The Pond Dynamics/Aquaculture Collaborative Research Support Program (PD/A CRSP) represents an international, multi-disciplinary effort to improve human nutrition through pond aquaculture research. The work of the PD/A CRSP benefits both domestic and international aquaculture.
  • State of World Aquaculture 2010, FAO, United Nations.
  • World Aquaculture Society - International society of aquaculturalists working to improve education and communication within the industry.

Largemouth Bassfisherman holding largemouth bass

The native range of largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) includes the lower Great Lakes, the central part of the Mississippi River system south to the Gulf Coast, Florida and north on the Atlantic coast to Virginia. As a result of its popularity as a game fish, the largemouth bass may now be the most widely introduced fish in North America. It occurs over virtually the entire Atlantic coast from Maine to Florida, west to Texas and northeastern Mexico, north through the eastern parts of the states from New Mexico to North Dakota and east across southern Canada to western New York. Additionally, it has been introduced throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, South Africa, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Brazil.

Young bass primarily eat aquatic insects with fish, mollusks and crayfish playing an important role in the adult diet. Largemouth bass spawn from late spring through mid-summer as water temperatures approach 60°F. A single female may produce from 2,000 to 10,000 eggs and may spawn with several males. The male fans the eggs to ensure that they are well oxygenated and defends the nest and fry.

Largemouth bass are cultured at private, state and federal facilities for recreational fishing and stocking programs. Under culture conditions, largemouth bass may be spawned and reared artificially or allowed to reproduce in culture ponds with the resulting young moved to other ponds for grow-out. Optimal temperature for growth of largemouth bass is between 75°F and 86°F. Although largemouth bass may survive short exposures to pH as low as 4.0, optimal growth pH is between 6.5 and 8.5. As with pH, largemouth bass can survive brief exposure to low dissolved oxygen levels; however, optimal growth occurs at dissolved oxygen levels above 5.0 ppm.

Largemouth bass are voracious predators, and this limits their applications for aquaculture-produced food fish from intensive-culture systems. However, fingerling production can be profitable if markets are available. Most fingerlings from commercial hatcheries are sold directly to state or federal fishery managers for public stocking programs or to private fishery managers or individuals for the stocking of private lakes or ponds. Competition from public (state and federal) hatcheries limits these markets in some areas. Since 1- to 2-inch bass fingerlings are subject to severe cannibalism, they must be harvested and sold for pond grow-out stocking at proper densities as soon as they reach this marketable size.

Based on a 1-surface-acre pond system containing 30 thousand 1.5-inch to 2-inch fingerlings, a projected income and expense model developed by the USDA-ARS Southern Regional Aquaculture Center demonstrated total costs of $2,502, income of $4,500 and an expected return to management of $1,998. The authors note that this is a wholesale projection; selling retail would double this figure. (Culture of Largemouth Bass Fingerlings 1997)

According to the 2005 Census of Aquaculture, 192 U.S. farms reared largemouth bass in 2005, posting total sales of $10.6 million that year. Ohio dominates this commodity, having 20 farms that earned $173,000. However, both Arkansas (10 farms) and Illinois (10 farms) posted higher total sales: about $3.7 million and $870,000, respectively. Other states having a significant number of farms raising largemouth bass are Wisconsin (15 farms) and Alabama (10 farms).

Of the 192 farms raising largemouth bass, 97 raised fingerlings and fry, 58 raised food-size and 52 raised stockers. Ohio (10 farms) and Wisconsin (8 farms) dominate in fingerlings and fry production. Alabama, Arkansas and Ohio have the same number of farms raising food-size largemouth bass: six. With six farms raising stockers, Ohio also ranks first in that category.
In 2013 the USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service undertook the most recent comprehensive census of aquaculture. Compilation of 2013 data began in January of 2014 and should be released later in the year.
Resources / Other Links:

  • Aquaculture Certification Council - A nongovernmental body established to certify social, environmental and food safety standards at aquaculture facilities throughout the world. This Missouri nonprofit, nonmember public benefit corporation builds on elements of the voluntary Global Aquaculture Alliance Responsible Aquaculture Program system that combines site inspections and effluent sampling with sanitary controls, therapeutic controls and product traceability.
  • Aquaculture in Hawaii - Hawaii Aquaculture Web page, an information source and guide to getting started in aquaculture in Hawaii, presented by the State Aquaculture Development Program, State Department of Agriculture.
  • Aquaculture Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - Provides fisheries market news and statistic summaries (aquaculture results by catch), available grants, new marine product food safety guidelines, endangered natural stocks, export guidelines for shipments to the European Union, links and addresses of many National Marine Fisheries Support Offices, and other information). Site includes information on Department of Commerce Aquaculture Policy, the National Aquaculture Act of 1980, recent NOAA Aquaculture Policy and breaking research and legislative news.
  • Aquamedia - An Internet information and resource for aquaculture and fisheries. Contains directories, news, statistics and other related information.
  • Aquatic Network - Aquaculture topics, educational information, publications and products and services listing.
  • Census of Aquaculture (2005), USDA, 2006.
  • Census of Aquaculture (2012-2013), USDA, 2014.
  • Largemouth Bass, Southern Regional Aquaculture Center (SRAC), Texas A&M University.
  • Largemouth Bass, Kentucky State University.
  • Largemouth Bass, Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, 2008 - With proper management, native largemouth bass can grow to 12 pounds or more.
  • National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Commercial Services: Aquaculture and Seafood - Contains leads, current and historical trade statistics, import requirements, news and regulatory information. This mission of the Trade and Commercial Service staff is to promote and facilitate trade for the U.S. seafood and aquaculture industries by expanding existing markets and opening new ones for the U.S. producers and processors.
  • Permaculture: Aquaculture - Huge bibliography of written resources and links from CrescentMeadow.com, Crescent Meadow Systems, a pemaculture reference site.
  • Pond Dynamics/Aquaculture - The Pond Dynamics/Aquaculture Collaborative Research Support Program (PD/A CRSP) represents an international, multi-disciplinary effort to improve human nutrition through pond aquaculture research. The work of the PD/A CRSP benefits both domestic and international aquaculture.
  • University of Wisconsin Sea Grant: Aquaculture and Sea Food Safety - Overview of various programs and initiatives of the Great Lakes Sea Grant Program. Sea Grant researchers are studying several fish species suitable for aquaculture in the Midwest, including walleye, sturgeon, hybrid striped bass, sunfish, bait fish, yellow perch, tilapia, bluegill, crappie, bullhead, crayfish and a variety of salmonids. A variety of techniques are being examined, including pond culture, cage culture and indoor contained systems. The Great Lakes Sea Grant Network also has developed a regional resource list of aquaculture publications and audiovisuals for current and potential aquaculturists.
  • World Aquaculture Society - International society of aquaculturalists working to improve education and communication within the industry.

Salmonsalmon fish

Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) are distributed across the basin of the North Atlantic Ocean from the Arctic Circle to Portugal in the eastern Atlantic, from Iceland and southern Greenland, and from the Ungava region of northern Quebec south to the Connecticut River. Part of their life cycle occurs in saltwater and part in freshwater. Atlantic salmon were eliminated from most of their native range in the northeastern United States and Canada, but restocking efforts have re-established them in many watersheds.

In the United States, Maine and Washington are the two largest salmon-producing states, raising 20.7 million pounds of foodsized salmon in 2005. Other statistics contained in the 2005 Census of Aquaculture state that nine farms sold 2.4 million fish at an average price of $1.81 per pound for total sales in excess of $37.4 million. Atlantic salmon account for over 95 percent of the farmed salmon produced. Other species found on the market include chinook, chum, coho, pink and sockeye.

Atlantic salmon are cultured extensively at state, federal and private facilities throughout the northeast for restoration efforts, recreational fishing opportunities and as a food fish. Under culture conditions, Atlantic salmon eggs should be incubated at 42 degrees F. Upon hatching, the temperature should be dropped to 38 degrees F until the sac fry begins to accept prepared food. At this point, the temperature should be raised to 50 degrees F, then slowly increased to a final maintenance temperature of 60 degrees F. The pH should be greater than 6, and dissolved oxygen levels should remain above 7 ppm.

A group led by an Oregon State University geneticist cautioned that relying on hatcheries to sustain salmon runs is likely to fail in the long run without restoring river habitats. They found that fish raised from wild eggs in hatcheries will soon evolve traits ill-suited to the wild and that hatchery programs "essentially created a fish version of white lab mice." This finding suggests that they are very well adapted to handling, artificial diets and so on but that they do not survive well in the wild.

This has been a controversial issue. Hatchery fish make up about two-thirds of the wild-strain salmon and steelhead (trout) returning each year to the Columbia Basin, the largest producer of salmon on the West Coast. The returns represent just 5 percent of historical levels before dams, logging and other habitat degradation reduced populations and spawning-bed resources. Conservation groups, Indian tribes, fishermen, state and federal agencies, the timber industry, agricultural groups and property rights groups have been battling over the role of hatcheries and the role of artificial population enhancement for decades.

The bottom line: research confirms that steelhead raised for generations in hatcheries do poorly when they try to reproduce in the wild, but the first generation of fish raised from wild parents in hatcheries are as successful at reproducing in their native rivers as their wild cousins. This finding means that hatcheries can use wild-recovered stock for their breeding programs, supplementing their efforts to sustain or enhance the wild-fish resource, and that “aquaculture-strain” salmon are just that, a domestic animal well suited to confinement rearing. These results parallel other studies showing that even hatchery fish bred from wild eggs are inferior to wild-produced fish. This implies that there are three distinct courses for salmon resource protection: habitat restoration for wild fish, augmentation of the wild resource with “first-generation hatchery fish and use of “confinement-acclimated” strains for dedicated aquaculture production systems.
USDA's Foreign Ag Service (FAS) reported that the value of both 'not canned' and 'canned' salmon totaled more than $1 billion in 2011, a 12 percent increase from the previous year. The value of not canned salmon rose 9 percent, reaching more than $782.2 million, while the value of canned salmon jumped 25 percent, totaling $223.7 million.
The volume of exported Atlantic salmon is far less than that of Pacific salmon. Likewise, the volume of fresh exported salmon is far less than that of frozen exported salmon. In 2011, however, the volume of exported frozen Atlantic salmon and of exported fresh and frozen Pacific salmon continued to increase, while the volume of exported fresh Atlantic salmon dropped to 2007 levels.  
The largest markets for U.S. fresh and frozen salmon were China and Japan, followed by Canada. During 2011, exports to China and Japan both increased, while exports to Canada decreased. The largest buyers of U.S. canned salmon were Canada and the United Kingdom. Exports to both countries rose by double digits in 2011 (FAS 2011). During 2011, the United States re-exported 929 tons of salmon valued at $4.9 million (NMFS 2012).

During 2011, imports of fresh and frozen salmon totaled 228,847 tons and were valued at $1.9 billion, a 3.2 percent increase in volume and a 8.5 percent increase in value from 2010 (NMFS 2012). Atlantic salmon imports totaled nearly 399.5 million pounds in 2011, increasing from the previous year but still below earlier years. Most imported Atlantic salmon was fresh rather than frozen and in the form of fillets. Canada was the largest supplier of fresh Atlantic salmon (ERS). According to USDA's FAS, the United States imported salmon valued at nearly $2.0 billion in 2011, a 9 percent increase from 2010. Chile and Canada were the largest suppliers of salmon, followed by China and Norway. Salmon imports from Chile and China increased by double digits in 2011, while imports from Canada and Norway both declined. Chile is back in the U.S. market with fresh fillets, and both Chile and Norway have increased production. As production rises by as much as 15 percent, prices could easily fall to very low levels (FAS 2011).

Resources / Other Links:

  • Aquaculture Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - Fisheries market news and statistic summaries (aquaculture results by catch, available grants, new marine product food safety guidelines, endangered natural stocks, export guidelines for shipments to the European Union, links and addresses of many National Marine Fisheries Support Offices and other information.
  • Atlantic Salmon, Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, FAO, UN, 2004.
  • Can Quality Revitalize the Alaskan Salmon Industry?, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Iowa State University, 2004 - Declining salmon prices, due primarily to expansion of farmed salmon production, have reduced revenues for Alaska’s wild salmon fisheries by roughly 62 percent over the past 10 years. One possibility for reversing this trend is to differentiate wild and farmed salmon in consumer markets through quality improvements and marketing.
  • Census of Aquaculture (2005), USDA, 2006.
  • Census of Aquaculture (2012-2013), USDA, 2014.
  • Farmed Salmon, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.
  • Global Aquaculture Production, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations (UN), 2010.
  • Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS), Foreign Ag Service (FAS), USDA.
  • Import and Exports of Fishery Products 2011, Fisheries Statistics Division, NMFS, 2012.
  • Klamath Salmon... Or Whose Water Is It?, Market to Market, Iowa Public Television, 2008 - Those who rely on the dwindling salmon populations for their income are facing what might be called a "perfect storm" of environmental, economic and political challenges.
  • National Aquaculture Association - This producer-based association is dedicated to the establishment of national programs that further the common interest of individual producers and members of the aquaculture industry.
  • Salmon Fisheries in Alaska, Alaska Department of Fish and Game - Site includes permit information, overviews of state production and related information.
  • Salmon Market Report, Globefish, FAO, UN, February 2012.
  • Study: Modern Hatcheries Aid Wild Salmon, Conservation Biology, 2006 - A group led by an Oregon State University geneticist cautions that relying on hatcheries to sustain salmon runs is likely to fail in the long run without restoration of river habitats.
  • Top 10 Consumed Seafood, National Fisheries Institute, aboutseafood.com, 2010 - Lists the top ten species consumed in the United States by pounds per person.

Sturgeon

Sturgeon are ancient, cartilaginous skeleton fish from a fish family more than 60 million years old. The majority of them are anadromous; a certain portion of their life is spent at sea or in large bodies of fresh water from which they run up freshwater streams to spawn. They tend to be bottom feeders, consuming insect larvae, small fish and occasionally fish-related carrion. In rivers that support salmon populations, sturgeon will forage on roe, as well as the decaying salmon remains from the deceased breeders.

Though legally protected since 1921, sturgeon has never really recovered from its past exploitation, due primarily to its long reproductive cycle. A female sturgeon cannot reproduce until it has reached 20 years in age. Even then they spawn every four to six years, or just three or four times during a 40-year average life span. In addition, the growth rate of all species is extremely slow. After an initial growth spurt, growth may only average between 1 to 1.5 inches per year. In large river systems such as the Fraser River in southern British Columbia and Oregon’s Columbia River, however, fish in excess of 180 inches and weighing more than 1,500 pounds have been recovered.


Eight species of sturgeon are native to North America, including the Pacific, or white, sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus); the lake, or rock, sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens); the shovel-nose sturgeon; and the endangered pallid sturgeon. There are numerous landlocked fresh-water sturgeon populations.

The white sturgeon, which may live for over 100 years, is the largest North American game fish. A white sturgeon from the Fraser River, weighing 149 pounds and 90 inches in length, was reliably aged at 71 years.

The lake sturgeon commonly reaches 36 to 72 inches and weighs from 10 to 80 pounds. This fish of the Great Lakes region is a huge, heavy, bony-plated fish with a sharklike tail that lives in large rivers and lakes, and once was found throughout the Mississippi River, the Great Lakes and the Hudson River. In the Wisconsin Lake Winnebago Wolf River system, a 79-inch, 188-pound lake sturgeon was harvested during the February 2004 spearing season that established a new sport-fishing record for the state.

Almost all species are completely protected from commercial or sport fishing. Where sport fishing is allowed, it is closely managed and regulated. To prevent poaching, most sturgeon spawning sites are actively patrolled by game management and law enforcement agencies. Illegal demand for female sturgeon drives poaching, even though most poached fish are unsuitable for “ripe” roe recovery. For instance, lake sturgeon do not spawn until they are 20 to 25 years of age and then have ripe roe only about every three or five years thereafter.
 
In 2006, the United Nations agency that oversees trade in endangered species refused to issue export quotas for wild caviar from sturgeon in the Caspian and Black Seas, except for a small amount of Iranian caviar, effectively limiting international trade in wild caviar. 
 
The astronomical price of wild caviar, the long maturation and reproductive cycle of the fish, and continuing depletion of natural stocks due to overfishing and habitat destruction is driving interest in using aquaculture to rear sturgeon for their egg production. Aquaculture of sturgeon (and the closely related paddlefish) for roe is rapidly developing as an industry in the the United States. Aquaculture-produced roe can be processed, packaged and legally certified on-site. The roe is environmentally sound and consumers receive a product that is guaranteed to be what is on the label.

Within the past 20 years, American production has gone from 5,000 pounds to over 75,000 pounds. Today, American caviar usually is as good as imported Russian and Iranian caviar and sells for $25 to $39 per 2-ounce jar (Gourmet Food Blog), a bargain compared to $55 to up to $270 per ounce for Caspian Sea Russian Beluga.

Current production systems use fingerlings that are trained to eat a commercial diet. At three years of age, the sexes of the fish can be determined and the females are segregated. In five to seven years, the fish mature and may begin to develop the mature eggs. These “gravid” fish produce the roe (eggs) so highly prized for commercial caviar. Roe sacs are removed from the fish and screened to separate individual eggs. After a quick cleaning in fresh cold water, the roe is weighed and a proportional salt mixture is then added to it. The salting is done with a dry salt and mixed in by hand. At this stage, the product is first called caviar. After salting, the caviar is spread out on a fine screen to allow for a little drainage, a final check for impurities and assigned a market-standard grade. The caviar is then packed into tins for cold storage (26°-30°F) with a shelf-life expectancy of over one year (Sterling Caviar).

From its beginning in the mid-1990s, the farmed caviar industry has evolved into a global, multimillion- dollar business. Sturgeon farms in France, Germany, Italy and Uruguay are investing millions of dollars to expand facilities and to develop new technologies. For instance, at Agroittica Lombarda in Calvisano, Italy, the world's largest caviar farm, each female sturgeon has a microchip containing its genetic information, pond of origin and diet implanted in the back of its head. In Bulgaria, Canada, China, Israel and Abu Dhabi, caviar farmers are building new production facilities. (Caviar from farms instead of the seas 2006.)  
 
In the United States, 10 farms raised foodsize sturgeons, two farms raised fingerling and fry sturgeons, and one farm raised stocker sturgeon. The two states most involved in sturgeon production were California and Idaho. (Census of Aquaculture 2005.)


Currently the meat from sturgeon is sold at gourmet food markets. The value of U.S. sturgeon exports plummeted from $63,000 in 2001 to $5,000  in 2005 but is slowly recovering. In 2011, the United States exported 97.7 metric tons of sturgeon valued at $741,000. Russia purchased more than 80 percent of the U.S. sturgeon exports. 
Resources / Other Links:

  • Alaska Mariculture, Alaska Department of Fish and Game - Alaska state mariculture site includes razor clam restoration information, permit information, overviews of state production and related information.
  • Annual Commercial Landing Statistics, Fisheries Statistics, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), 2007.
  • Aquaculture Certification Council - A nongovernmental body established to certify social, environmental and food safety standards at aquaculture facilities throughout the world. This Missouri nonprofit, nonmember public benefit corporation builds on elements of the voluntary Global Aquaculture Alliance Responsible Aquaculture Program system that combines site inspections and effluent sampling with sanitary controls, therapeutic controls and product traceability.
  • Aquaculture, Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA.
  • Aquaculture in Hawaii, State Aquaculture Development Program, State Department of Agriculture - Hawaii Aquaculture web page, an information source and guide to getting started in aquaculture in Hawaii.
  • AquaFish, Pond Dynamics/Aquaculture Collaborative Research Support Program (PD/A CRSP) - Represents an international, multi-disciplinary effort to improve human nutrition through pond aquaculture research. The work of the PD/A CRSP benefits both domestic and international aquaculture.
  • AquaMedia - An Internet information and resource for aquaculture and fisheries. Contains directories, news, statistics and other related information.
  • Aquatic Network - Aquaculture topics, educational information, publications and products and services listing.
  • Caviar from farms instead of the seas, Jane Black, International Herald Tribune, 2006.
  • Census of Aquaculture (2005), USDA, 2006.
  • Census of Aquaculture, 2007, USDA.
  • Census of Aquaculture (2012-2013), USDA, 2014.
  • Global Agricultural Trade System, Foreign Agricultural Service, USDA.
  • Great lakes Aquaculture (Sea Grant) - Overview of various programs and initiatives of the Great Lakes Sea Grant Program. Sea Grant researchers are studying several fish species suitable for aquaculture in the Midwest, including walleye, sturgeon, hybrid striped bass, sunfish, bait fish, yellow perch, tilapia, bluegill, crappie, bullhead, crayfish and a variety of salmonids. A variety of techniques are being examined, including pond culture, cage culture and indoor contained systems. The Great Lakes Sea Grant Network also has developed a regional resource list of aquaculture publications and audiovisuals for current and potential aquaculturists.
  • Imports and Exports of Fishery Products: Annual Summary, Fisheries Statistics Division, NMFS, 2011.
  • Sterling Caviar.
  • World Aquaculture Society - International society of aquaculturalists working to improve education and communication within the industry.

Tilapiatilapia cut

Tilapia (til ah pe ah), is the second most important group of farmed fish after carp and the most widely grown of any farmed fish on the planet. It is farmed in at least 85 countries, with most imports coming from Asia (China and Indonesia) and Latin America (Honduras, Ecuador and Costa Rica).

The global supply of farmed tilapia surged in the 1990s and early 2000s, largely due to the widespread introduction of improved tilapia breeds, increased feed availability, the effective management of reproduction through sex reversal and hybridization, and expansion of consumer markets throughout the world.

According to the National Fisheries Institute, tilapia now ranks fourth on its “Top Ten” list of the most consumed fish and seafood in the United States. During 2010, the average consumption of tilapia was nearly 1.5 pounds, up from 1.2 pounds per person the previous year. In 2012 the FAO World Aquaculture production principal species report listed world Nile Tilapia (Oriochromis niloticus) production at 3,197,330 metric tons valued at $5,260,695,000 USD. When related species are included with Nile tilapia, world production is estimated at 4,507,000 metric tons valued at $1,699/metric ton.
Tilapia are hardy and prolific fast-growing tropical fish. They can live more than 10 years and reach a weight of over 10 pounds, but depending on environmental conditions some species can reach maturity at less than a quarter of a pound. Although tilapia can live in either fresh or salt water, most species are unable to survive at temperatures below 50°F.

Currently, tilapia are produced in the United States in outdoor ponds as well as indoor systems for sale as live food fish to the restaurant and supermarket trade. In most areas of the southern U.S., tilapia production in outside facilities is strictly regulated to avoid unwanted introductions and environmental damage to native fresh-water systems, particularly to sport-fishing resources.

Under culture conditions, brood stock are held onsite and spawned to produce eggs. Under ideal conditions, females may spawn every seventeen days. The eggs and resulting fry are maintained at a temperature of 80°F to 84°F. The pH is maintained at 7.5 to 7.8, while dissolved oxygen levels should remain at or above 8.0 ppm. Under these conditions, market-sized fish can be obtained in about seven to ten months depending on stocking density.

Within the past few years there has been an increase in water-circulating closed-system tank production of tilapia in aquaculture or aquaponic systems. Tilapia is a particularly good candidate for aquaponics where the toxic nitrogenous waste of the fish is converted to plant-usable nitrogen using biofilters. Plant uptake of this fertilized water then removes the remaining nitrogen content and the clean water is returned to the fish tank. Aquaponics can produce both fish protein and plants in a very confined or limited space. Since tilapia have a very efficient feed-to-protein feed-conversion ratio, grow very quickly and can be “crowed” in very high populations within the fish-tank part of the system, they are one of the best candidates for aquaponic production. Brood stock and hobbyist and classroom to commercial-production off-the-shelf systems are available from a number of suppliers.

As of 2005 (the last Census of Aquaculture conducted by the USDA), 156 farms in the United States cultured tilapia, reporting total sales of $31.3 million. Most of this production reaches the market as a live product destined for Asian and Hispanic consumers. While the largest number of tilapia farms were located in Hawaii (19 farms) and Florida (18 farms), California (15 farms) ranked first in sales (over $8.1 million). Idaho ranked second, reporting over $1.5 million in sales from seven farms. However, data from some states with very high production but very few operations were not available due to reporting concerns related to confidentiality (NASS 2006).

Of these farms, the largest number (128) reared foodsize tilapia, reporting total sales of $29.6 million. Many of these were situated in Hawaii (18 farms), California (15 farms) and Florida (12 farms). Other tilapia farms specialized in fingerlings, fry and broodstock (NASS 2006). The industry still fits this general profile today, but the number of smaller recirculating-system based operations in the Midwest and Northeast has declined due to significant cost increases for feed, as well as competition from larger producers, who can generally sell at reduced prices due to economies of scale.

Although worldwide production of tilapia was expected to total 3.7 million metric tons (MT) during 2010, the reported total was 3.5 million MT (roughly 7.7 billion pounds). Growth in production appeared to be accelerating at that time. The total reported value of global tilapia production increased from $203 million in 1985 to $5.7 billion in 2010, reflecting not only the staggering growth in volume of production but also an increase in (world-wide) pond-bank value from $0.44 to $0.74 per pound. Of course, the bulk of this production involves smaller fish for local or regional markets, but large fish destined for global fillet markets in the United States, Europe and Asia can command as much as $1.50 per pound at harvest, and live tilapia have been valued at $3 per pound or more in the United States and Europe in recent years. By 2015, world production is forecast to reach 4.6 – 5.0 million MT (FAO 2010).

In a University of Florida operational analysis, a model business analysis suggested that a small-scale, outdoor pond tilapia culture facility could be profitable. Positive average annual net returns and a cash flow that is positive throughout a five-year planning horizon supported this conclusion. Given the assumptions concerning yield, harvest size, market prices and per-unit input costs, the hypothetical six-acre tilapia culture facility required an initial investment of $65,850 and generated $40,259 in annual operating costs, yielding $29,221 in net returns during an average year. However, variables including market price, feed costs, survival rates, technical ability, geographic location of the facility, prevailing market conditions and additional factors including other input prices and stocking densities were also shown to potentially influence profits. Given the increase in feed costs over the past decade, productivity would have to improve for this model facility to maintain profitability.

Lutz (2000) examined the comparative production costs of U.S. tilapia operations (open ponds, greenhouse facilities and enclosed indoor tank systems) with those of tropical production facilities and concluded that improved strains and technology would be required to allow for competition in domestic fillet markets. These advances have not been forthcoming, and production costs have increased over the past decade. With the availability of frozen tilapia imports from China, almost all of the tilapia cultured in the United States is sold as a live product to attract the premium price necessary to cover production costs. This situation is not expected to change in the foreseeable future. Producers in the United States must focus on developing markets for live products, improving management and technology for recirculating aquaculture production, and managing procurement (fingerlings and feed) and inventory aspects of their operations.

The U.S. tilapia import market is split into the frozen and the fresh segments. Frozen fillet volume continues growing strongly, while whole frozen product has remained fairly constant due to a limited market. In 2011, primary suppliers of frozen fillets to the United States were China ($522 million) and Indonesia ($60 million). China ($50 million) and Taiwan ($26 million) account for almost all imports of frozen whole fish. When production declines in China and Taiwan occur due to unseasonably cold winter temperatures or problems with disease outbreaks, frozen product supplies to North American markets are reduced, and prices generally increase accordingly.

The fresh fillet sector, dominated by Latin American countries, is still experiencing growth in demand, especially from restaurants and supermarkets. In 2010, Honduras surpassed Ecuador as the primary supplier of imported fresh tilapia fillets, in spite of the temporary idling of its second largest operation. In 2011, major suppliers of fresh fillets to U.S. markets included Honduras ($62 million), Ecuador ($50 million) and Colombia ($18 million). (ERS 2012)

The popularity of tilapia in the United States remained unaffected during the economic recession although overall consumption of fish products fell by 1.3 percent in 2009. For tilapia, however, consumption increased slightly. As quality controls (off-flavor management) become stricter in major exporting countries, market share for tilapia will probably increase even further in the U.S. However, tilapia is becoming increasingly popular in many European countries, and some portion of the supply traditionally destined for the United States may be diverted in the future to Europe and other markets.

Imports of tilapia products have become a mainstay in the U.S. foodservice and restaurant sectors, where the reasonably priced, mild fish has provided an easy way to add a seafood item to menus. The questions for the U.S. tilapia industry are how best to avoid competing with growing foreign production and how to determine which market segments are most favorable for domestic producers supplying live, locally grown product.

Resources / Other Links:

Brook, Brown, and Rainbow Trouttrout

Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) have a distribution that includes northeastern North America from the Atlantic seaboard south to Cape Cod, the Appalachian Mountains southward to Georgia, west in the upper Mississippi and Great Lakes drainage to Minnesota and north to Hudson Bay. Their natural range has been greatly expanded through artificial propagation.

Brook trout are raised in large quantities by state facilities for stocking into public lakes and streams. They also are cultured in private facilities for both recreational fishing on site and for stocking into private ponds. Additionally they are used by the supermarket and restaurant trade as a food fish. Under culture conditions, brook trout should be maintained at a temperature of about 59°F for optimal growth. The pH should remain close to neutral with an acceptable range of 6.7 to 8.2. As with most salmonid species, dissolved oxygen levels should remain above 5.0 ppm. Generally brook trout spawn before brown trout.

The distribution of brown trout (Salmo trutta) includes Iceland, the British Isles and the Eurasian mainland from Cape Kanin to the Aral Sea and Afghanistan westward throughout Europe. As one of the world’s premier sport fish, brown trout have been widely introduced into many parts of the world. As a result of stocking beginning in the late 1800s, they have been widely established throughout North America.

Brown trout are cultured in large numbers in state facilities for stocking into public waters. Culture also occurs in private facilities mainly for recreational fishing on site and for stocking into private ponds. Under culture conditions, the optimal temperature range for embryo development is 41°F to 55°F. For adults, a temperature range of 54°F to 66°F should be maintained. The pH should remain between 6.8 and 7.8, while dissolved oxygen levels should be above 5.0 ppm.

The habitat requirements for brown trout are essentially the same as those for brook trout. The two frequently coexist, with brown trout slightly more tolerant of higher water temperatures. They have been found to survive in waters as high as 80°F. The diet of young brown trout consists of a wide variety of aquatic and terrestrial insects, their larvae as well as fish and other vertebrates. Larger fish feed mainly during the twilight and nighttime hours with fish and crayfish playing a much more important role in their diet. Brown trout spawn in late autumn to early winter as water temperatures approach 45°F. Natural spawning habitat is essentially the same as for brook trout, namely, shallow gravelly headwaters.

Rainbow trout are one of the most popular and easily reared aquaculture fish. They are a fast-growing and crowding-tolerant fish, making them well suited to captive breeding. These trout are widely used around the world for fish farming and restocking of angling fisheries. The freshwater forms feed on invertebrates and fish, but reared strains do very well on grain-based artificial diets.

Rainbow trout in common use today come from domestic strains developed to suit intensive fish farming as a food fish for sale as a fresh, fresh-frozen or smoked product to restaurants, supermarkets or consumers. When used for aquaculture meat production, the fish are purchased as fry and reared to marketable size, or are hatched onsite in tanks from eggs and sperm obtained from brood stock. When reared for angling, most are stocked at a harvestable size for rapid removal either to public waters or private ponds. Stocking densities and average weights are dictated by the economics of the angling demand. Due to the widespread use of all-female or sterile triploid strains, spawning is uncommon or nonexistent in some commercial (sterile-hybrid) strains. The diet of young trout consists of a variety of aquatic and terrestrial insects and their larvae as well as fish and other vertebrates. Like all trout, rainbow trout do best in cold, well-oxygenated waters. Like brown trout, however, they are much more tolerant of warmer temperatures than brook trout. They are capable of surviving in waters as high as 85°F, provided the water remains well aerated. Spawning begins in early spring as water temperatures approach 50°F. Eggs numbers may be as high as 12,000 per female. For optimal growth, temperatures should be maintained at about 59°F. The pH should remain close to neutral, with an acceptable range of 6.7 to 8.2. Like most salmonid species, dissolved oxygen levels should remain above 5.0 ppm.

USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS 2012) reported that 754 trout-rearing farms were located in the United States in 2011. Fish sales that year totaled $76.6 million, an increase of 7 percent from the previous year. Idaho recorded $38.2 million in trout sales, the highest total of any state, which accounted for 50 percent of U.S. sales. North Carolina ranked second with $6.3 million in trout sales, followed very closely by Pennsylvania with $6.2 million and Arkansas with $5.1 million.

The value of all sales, both fish and eggs, received by U.S. trout growers during 2011 totaled $85.3 million. Egg sales alone totaled $8.7 million. The major sales outlets for trout 12 inches or longer were sold to processors, which made up 48 percent. The major sales outlets for 6- to 12-inch trout were to recreational sotcking, which accounted for 54 percent of total sales, and to governmental agencies, which accounted for 13 percent. Trout distributed by state and Federal hatcheries in 2010 for restoration, conservation and recreational purposes included 7.8 million 12-inch or longer fish, 59.4 million 6- to 12- inch fish and 74.4 million fingerlings. The estimated value of the fish distributed that year was $100.5 million, down 4 percent from 2010 (NASS 2012).

The products of trout culture include food products sold in supermarkets and other retail outlets, live fish for the restocking of rivers and lakes for recreational game fisheries, and products from hatcheries whose eggs and juveniles are sold to other farms. Food market fish size can be reached in 9 months, but 'pan-sized' fish, around 1 pound, are harvested after 12 to 18 months. Optimal harvest size in the United States is generally 1.5 pounds. Trout are marketed as fresh or frozen whole fish or fillets (often boneless) and as value-added products, such as smoked trout.

As with any business, trout farms aim to increase revenue and reduce expenditure by using the best value feed/seed and materials and by achieving an efficient FCR. The average cost of production is between $2.65 and $4.41 per pound. Running costs can start at $100 per 1,000 fry purchased at 2 to 3 inches and feed for one year from $1,000 to $1,400. Veterinary and medicine costs are from $50 per ton with transportation and sales commission about $500 per ton (FAO 2003).

In 2010 the value of trout imports jumped by 73 percent, reaching $56.1 million (ERS). About 90 percent of the imported trout comes from Chile, Canada and Argentina (FAS).Trout exports from the United States are small. After peaking in 2003, the value of trout exports decreased 30 percent during 2010, reaching just under $1.5 million (ERS). Canada continued to be the largest market for U.S. trout; the country purchased fish valued at $993,000 (FAS).
Resources / Other Links:

  • Aquaculture, Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA.
  • Aquaculture Data, Economic Research Service, USDA, 2011
  • Aquaculture Data, ERS, USDA, 2010.
  • Aquaculture in North Carolina: Rainbow Trout, North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, 2001.
  • Bullfrog Fish Farm, Menomonie, Wisconsin - Herby Radmann built a small profitable fish farm from scratch. He sells thousands of pounds of rainbow trout each year to farm visitors,restaurants and retail outlets
  • Census of Aquaculture (2005), USDA, 2006.
  • Census of Aquaculture (2012-2013), USDA, 2014.
  • Century Trout Farm, Oregon, Wisconsin - This fee-fishing enterprise has a website with photos of the resources and an FAQ section that covers topics including group availability, fish species, pricing, disabled angler provisions and various services.
  • Farmed Rainbow Trout fact sheet, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.
  • Heartland Fish Cooperative, Ag Marketing Resource Center, Iowa State University, 2003 - Business profile on Iowa aquaculture operation. The cooperative has four family producer-owners with indoor, enclosed aquaculture facilities at two locations. They produce "fresh-frozen" fresh-dressed, wrapped and frozen rainbow trout and walleye pike fillets.
  • Imports and Exports of Fishery Products: Annual Summary, Fisheries Statistics Division, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), 2009.
  • Rainbow Trout Cultured Aquatic Species Fact Sheet, Fisheries Global Information System, Food and Ag Organization (FAO), 2003.
  • Rainbow Trout Farm, Sandy, Oregon - This youth- and family-oriented enterprise has 30 acres of trees and meadows and ten landscaped fishing holes stocked with rainbow trout.
  • Trout, North Carolina State University Aquaculture Extension.
  • Trout, Southern Regional Aquaculture Center, Texas A&M University.
  • Trout Production, National Ag Statistics Service, USDA, 2011.
  • United States Trout Farmers Association - USTFA is the oldest commercial aquaculture trade organization in the United States. It now has members in nearly every state. 
  • Wilderness Springs Trout Farm, New London, Wisconsin - In its 30 ponds and concrete raceways, this trout production operation hatches 300,000 rainbow trout per year. It generates revenue more or less equally from public “fee” fishing and the production of fish for pond stocking and sport shows

Walleyeswimming walley

The walleye (Stizostedion vitreum) is a high-value game and food fish in the north central United States. The walleye is a species of large perch; the commonly used names “walleye pike” or “walleyed pike” are misleading. Driven by a decreasing commercial catch and strong market demand, there is a strong interest in developing this species as an aquaculture-produced marketable fish in recirculating tank systems.

There is little or no commercial walleye fishing in the United States. To protect sport fisheries, most commercial fishing on America’s larger lakes and rivers has been prohibited for decades. The exception to this rule are the Native American tribal fisheries in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan that allow a tribal spring spearing and netting harvest as established by treaty regulation. These fish are used by the tribes and not legally sold onto the open market.

Most U.S. restaurant and market fish come from commercially fished U.S. wild populations in Lake Erie, and Canadian sources that include Lake Winnipeg, Lake of the Woods, Eagle Lake, Lake Nippigon and similar large lakes.

To maintain sport and tribal stocks, the United States and Canada yearly produce over 1 billion fry for stocking programs. The fish is relatively easy to hatch and rear in aquaculture systems. Aquaculture fish producers use fry that are produced on site or are purchased from other operations. Private producers also produce fry or rear fry for public or  private stocking of lakes and rivers by lake associations, sport-fishing groups and individuals. For example, Wisconsin recently had a state initiative to enhance sport-fishing by providing grant funding to municipal, tribal and private aquaculturalists with the goal of greatly increasing walleye populations in public waters.  Traditional rearing methodology involves the capture and egg collection from wild brood stock, and subsequent rearing in pens or tanks until they are released (planted) into a lake or river in the fall. These are the preferred fish for release into the wild.

Since the early 1990s, aquaculturists interested in producing fish for the market have focused on a “saugeye” hybrid. This fish was developed by crossing a female walleye and a male sauger (a closely related species). The fastest growing and most aquaculture-tolerant fish for pen- or tank-rearing systems is known as SL/MR, denoting the origins of the female walleye (Spirit Lake Iowa) and the male sauger (Mississippi River). This cross grows to market size more than twice as fast as native fish in closed-system rearing facilities. Also, walleyes exhibit sexually dimorphic (sexually different) growth characteristics. In walleyes and walleye hybrids, females grow faster than males. It has been demonstrated that there is the potential to hormonally shift “phenotypically invert” the sex of fry, so that they develop into monosex female populations. This could be a production boon to the industry; however, regulatory and public-perception barriers resulting from hormone use would need to be addressed.

Research is ongoing into proper densities for tank-rearing systems.Walleyes and saugeyes have exhibited retarded growth rates in tank or pond systems if too intensively and densely stocked. Additional work is focusing on production systems that employ outdoor ponds and open-water net-rearing. Much of the technology for these systems relies on information established for the culture of the related yellow perch, although there seems to be no advantages to these outdoor systems over more controlled indoor tank rearing. The optimal growth for walleyes is 68°F to 77°F. Nutritionally optimal diets are well known and there are established commercially available feed products.

Of the 68 U.S. farms raising walleye in 2005, Minnesota was home to 24 farms and Wisconsin was home to 16. Other states involved in walleye production include Iowa and New York with five farms each, and Michigan and South Dakota with four farms each. When size category is considered, 37 farms raised fingerlings and fry, and 30 raised stockers (Census of Aquaculture 2005).

The price per pound of walleye as a food fish is among the highest of freshwater fish. Total sales of farm-reared walleye was about $1.4 million in 2005. Of that amount, Minnesota sold $700 thousand and Wisconsin sold $291 thousand. The total sales of fingerlings and fry was $916 thousand in 2005 and of stockers was $417 thousand. (Census of Aquaculture 2005.)
In 2013 the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service undertook the most recent comprehensive census of aquaculture. Compilation of 2013 data began in January of 2014 and should be release later in the year.

 Resources / Other Links:

  • Annual Commercial Landing Statistics, Fisheries Statistics, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), 2007.
  • Aquaculture, Economic Research Service, USDA.
  • Aquaculture, University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute - Overview of various programs and initiatives of the Great Lakes Sea Grant Program. Sea Grant researchers are studying several fish species suitable for aquaculture in the Midwest, including walleye, sturgeon, hybrid striped bass, sunfish, bait fish, yellow perch, tilapia, bluegill, crappie, bullhead, crayfish and a variety of salmonids. A variety of techniques are being examined, including pond culture, cage culture and indoor contained systems. The Great Lakes Sea Grant Network also has developed a regional resource list of aquaculture publications and audiovisuals for current and potential aquaculturists.
  • Aquaculture Certification Council - A nongovernmental body established to certify social, environmental and food safety standards at aquaculture facilities throughout the world. This Missouri nonprofit, nonmember public benefit corporation builds on elements of the voluntary Global Aquaculture Alliance Responsible Aquaculture Program system that combines site inspections and effluent sampling with sanitary controls, therapeutic controls and product traceability.
  • Aquaculture in Hawaii, State Aquaculture Development Program, State Department of Agriculture - Hawaii Aquaculture web page, an information source and guide to getting started in aquaculture in Hawaii.
  • Aquaculture Resources, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - Fisheries market news and statistic summaries (aquaculture results by catch, available grants, new marine product food safety guidelines, endangered natural stocks, export guidelines for shipments to the European Union, links and addresses of many National Marine Fisheries Support Offices, and other information. Site includes information on Department of Commerce Aquaculture Policy, the National Aquaculture Act of 1980, recent NOAA Aquaculture Policy and breaking research and legislative news.
  • Acquamedia - An Internet information and resource for aquaculture and fisheries. Contains directories, news, statistics and other related information.
  • Aquatic Network - Aquaculture topics, educational information, publications and products and services listing.
  • Census of Aquaculture (2005), National Ag Statistics Service, USDA, 2006.
  • Census of Aquaculture (2012-2013), USDA, 2014.
  • Mariculture, Alaska Department of Fish and Game - Alaska state mariculture site includes razor clam restoration information, permit information, overviews of state production and related information.
  • National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Trade and Commercial Services - Contains leads, current and historical trade statistics, import requirements, news and regulatory information. This mission of the Trade and Commercial Service staff is to promote and facilitate trade for the U.S. seafood and aquaculture industries by expanding existing markets and opening new ones for the U.S. producers and processors.
  • Pond Dynamics/Aquaculture, Pond Dynamics/Aquaculture Collaborative Research Support Program (PD/A CRSP) - Represents an international, multi-disciplinary effort to improve human nutrition through pond aquaculture research. The work of the PD/A CRSP benefits both domestic and international aquaculture.
  • World Aquaculture Society - International society of aquaculturalists working to improve education and communication within the industry.

Yellow Perch

The yellow perch (Perca flavescens) is a highly valued food fish in the north-central region of the United States. Commercial harvests of yellow perch from the Great Lakes and Canada fail to keep pace with market demands. Fillets have a high retail market value, at times exceeding $12 per pound. High consumer demand continues to drive commercial and research interest. 
The development of the culture methods for yellow perch is of interest to researchers and entrepreneurs throughout the north central United States. Many individuals believe that this species holds tremendous potential for aquaculture in the region, from both production and marketing perspectives. This interest has grown as many have come to realize that an aquaculture industry in this area cannot be successfully built around a single species, such as catfish, for which other regions of the country hold a comparative production advantage. In addition, yellow perch are a traditional regional favorite with consumers, as well as an imported product that could be offset by domestic production.

According to the 2005 Census of Aquaculture (2006), the total number of U.S. farms rearing yellow perch in 2005 was 99 and their total sales that year was $692 thousand. Wisconsin ranked first in number of farms (29) but not in sales ($204 thousand). Ohio had higher sales ($222 thousand) but fewer farms (25). Of the 99 U.S. farms producing yellow perch in 2005, 46 raised fingerlings and fry, and 40 raised food-size yellow perch. 

Commercial culture of yellow perch depends on the economical production of fingerlings that accept an artificial diet. University researchers and private sector aquaculturists have developed a variety of methods for producing eggs, fry and fingerlings. These methods range from natural reproduction of adults with pond culture of fry and fingerlings to induced reproduction by light period and hormone manipulation in tank systems.

Currently, yellow perch aquaculture in the United States includes both pond culture and intensive tank-rearing systems. The time required to rapidly rear perch from small fingerlings to harvestable size in approximately 12 to 14 months. Traditionally, commercial operations use the natural reproduction/pond culture method. This is the most economical and requires minimal technology. While this general production method is well understood, it has problems. Anytime eggs and fry are produced in and "outside" relatively uncontrolled environment, disease and predation can become significant concerns. These systems also limit egg and fry production to specific times of the year.

With pond-produced larvae, they are collected and transferred to nursery ponds at a rate of several hundred thousand fry per pond. Lower stocking densities result in larger fingerlings at harvest. Higher stocking densities may result in greater numbers of smaller fingerlings at harvest. The harvest fingerlings are moved to grow-out ponds after 50-70 days. These fish are then feed-trained and usually treated with antibiotics to prevent bacterial fin-rot that easily can kill 30-40% of the population.

For this and other reasons, the refinement of intensive tank-rearing systems is in an area of ongoing research. Researchers at Ohio State University (2011) overcame a decades-old problem of intensive-culture larval mortality associated with the larvae not being able to inflate their swim bladders. a fatal condition. Adjusting water chemistry and temperature to finely turned parameters has increased survival up to 70% of hatchlings. The second major challenge has been increasing the survivability of the larvae to fry. This meant finding a very specific starter-diet and frequency of feeding, and again fine-tuning water parameters. This has resulted in 50% survival into the first two critical weeks of life; from then on it is relatively easy to rear fish to marketable size.

Indoor tank-rearing systems require considerable investment in rearing equipment and electricity costs for water pumping and in rearing environmental condition control. While technologically possible, the economics of indoor perch rearing involves a high upfront investment in rearing equipment and considerable additional maintenance costs for environment control. However, this system offers a shortened and perhaps continual growing period compared to the seasonal outdoor pond system. Handling of the fish (grading and sorting) is easier and more efficient, easier on the fish, and environmental control may be used to manipulate spawning or other regimens.

A commercial venture in Ohio, Bell Aquaculture, that has helped commercialize much of the Ohio State research, began production in 2008. Bell's operation has stimulated state sales of aquaculture products. In 2011 sales were at $6.6 million, up from only $1.8 million a few years before.

The University of Wisconsin (UW) has a series of research links (see link listed below) that describe key aspects of these systems. Before investing, a viable business plan is necessary. One good resource is Making Plans for Aquaculture in the North Central Region. A production-model spreadsheet is available from the North Central Regional Aquaculture Center.

The National Marine Fisheries Service indicates that the total quantity and total value of yellow perch caught commercially in 2005 was over 110 thousand pounds and about $338 thousand, respectively. Both figures reflect a decline from the previous year when over 1.6 million pounds of yellow perch were caught commercially at a total value of $2.5 million [Census of Aquaculture (2005) 2006].
Resources / Other Links:

  • Aquaculture, Economic Research Service, USDA.
  • Aquaculture, University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute - Overview of various programs and initiatives of the Great Lakes Sea Grant Program. Sea Grant researchers are studying several fish species suitable for aquaculture in the Midwest, including walleye, sturgeon, hybrid striped bass, sunfish, bait fish, yellow perch, tilapia, bluegill, crappie, bullhead, crayfish and a variety of salmonids. A variety of techniques are being examined, including pond culture, cage culture and indoor contained systems. The Great Lakes Sea Grant Network also has developed a regional resource list of aquaculture publications and audiovisuals for current and potential aquaculturists.
  • Aquaculture Certification Council - A nongovernmental body established to certify social, environmental and food safety standards at aquaculture facilities throughout the world. This Missouri nonprofit, nonmember public benefit corporation builds on elements of the voluntary Global Aquaculture Alliance Responsible Aquaculture Program system that combines site inspections and effluent sampling with sanitary controls, therapeutic controls and product traceability.
  • Aquaculture in Hawaii, State Aquaculture Development Program, State Department of Agriculture - Hawaii Aquaculture web page, an information source and guide to getting started in aquaculture in Hawaii.
  • Aquaculture Network Information Center (AquaNIC) - The AquaNIC is a gateway to the world's electronic aquaculture resources.
  • Aquaculture Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - Fisheries market news and statistic summaries (aquaculture results by catch, available grants, new marine product food safety guidelines, endangered natural stocks, export guidelines for shipments to the European Union, links and addresses of many National Marine Fisheries Support Offices, and other information). Site includes information on Department of Commerce Aquaculture Policy, the National Aquaculture Act of 1980, recent NOAA Aquaculture Policy and breaking research and legislative news.
  • Aquatic Network - Aquaculture topics, educational information, publications and products and services listing.
  • Census of Aquaculture (2005), USDA, 2006.
  • Census of Aquaculture (2012-2013), USDA, 2014.
  • Census of Aquaculture (2012-2013), USDA, 2014.
  • Enterprise Budgets for Yellow Perch Production, Purdue University, 1997 - In cooperation with USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, these enterprise budgets were developed for yellow perch production in cages and ponds in the North Central Region.
  • Aquamedia - An Internet information and resource for aquaculture and fisheries. Contains directories, news, statistics and other related information.
  • Fisheries Statistics Division, National Marine Fisheries Service - Contains leads, current and historical trade statistics, import requirements, news and regulatory information. This mission of the Trade and Commercial Service staff is to promote and facilitate trade for the U.S. seafood and aquaculture industries by expanding existing markets and opening new ones for the U.S. producers and processors.
  • Mariculture and Aquatic Farming, Alaska Department of Fish and Game - Alaska state mariculture site includes razor clam restoration information, permit information, overviews of state production and related information.
  • Opposing Flows Technology - Example of large-scale aquaculture closed-system production tanks.
  • Pond Dynamics/Aquaculture, Pond Dynamics/Aquaculture Collaborative Research Support Program (PD/A CRSP) - Represents an international, multi-disciplinary effort to improve human nutrition through pond aquaculture research. The work of the PD/A CRSP benefits both domestic and international aquaculture.
  • World Aquaculture Society - International society of aquaculturalists working to improve education and communication within the industry.
  • Yellow Perch, North Carolina State University Aquaculture Extension.
  • Yellow Perch, Perca flavescens, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.
  • Yellow Perch, Kentucky State University - A good pond-production background paper.
  • Yellow Perch Production; Modified in parts from class notes by Dr. Doug Holland, Aquaculture Program, Brunswick Community College - The best culture method for yellow perch is widely debated. The material presented here is based on the extensive experiences of staff at Brunswick Community College and yellow perch farmers in Brunswick County, North Carolina.