Aquaculture facility forges partnerships for growth
BAYFIELD – Aquaculture in Wisconsin is a growing industry, and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s northernmost facility is poised to enhance that growth.
A partnership between the Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute and UWSP’s Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility near Bayfield will build public awareness and training about aquaculture during the next four years.
“This partnership validates NADF as the premier aquaculture facility in the Midwest,” said Chris Cirmo, dean of the College of Letters and Science at UWSP. Led by members of the college’s Biology Department, the aquaculture facility helps advance development of commercial aquaculture in a northern climate.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” said Chris Hartleb, professor of fisheries biology at UWSP and director of the Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility. Typically the Sea Grant Program partners with the largest university or community along the Great Lakes states. “They saw us grow in size and prominence and wanted to split services between Milwaukee and Stevens Point.”
The National Sea Grant College Program is part the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A network of 33 programs is located in every coastal and Great Lakes state, involving more than 3,000 scientists, engineers, educators, students and outreach experts. It addresses issues such as coastal hazards, invasive species, sustainable coastal development and seafood safety.
The UW Sea Grant Institute supports outreach, education and research activities that nurture the growth of the industry in Wisconsin and the Great Lakes region. It has also supported promotions such as “Eat Wisconsin Fish,” partnering with brew pubs about the state.
Wisconsin has nearly 2,300 fish farms, ranking it highest in the Midwest and 20th in the U.S., according to the Wisconsin Aquaculture Association. The economic impact of fish farms in Wisconsin tops $21 million annually.
Staff at the UWSP demonstration facility conduct applied research and provide training and outreach services to commercial fish farm, those new to aquaculture, K-12 schools, universities, federal and state agencies and Wisconsin tribes. The goal is to develop best management practices for a sustainable and environmental industry.
Aquaculture research is focused on yellow perch, lake trout, Arctic char, Atlantic salmon and saugeye, a hybrid species of sauger and walleye which the Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility is breeding. Thirty UWSP undergraduate students have conducted research during summer internships.
Research is based on requests from commercial fish farms on fish health issues, assessments, production systems and permitting, Hartleb said. “We engage in science-based research and training to help the aquaculture industry grow.”
Here are some of the two-year research projects and partnerships underway at the UWSP demonstration facility:
• A $291,751 Sea Grant-funded Workforce Education and Training for Environmentally and Economically Sustainable Great Lakes Aquaculture project is developing a series of teaching modules for new and existing businesses.
• A $216,000 National Sea Grant will produce and evaluate the economics of new technologies for raising yellow perch fingerlings.
• A $60,000 grant funded by UPG Asset Management Inc. is providing production systems for raising Atlantic salmon and making some salmon eggs available to the Wisconsin aquaculture industry.
• $182,000 from the USDA Small Business Innovative Research program has forged a partnership with Northside Enterprises of Black Creek, to commercialize the production of hybrid walleye.