Over the next three years, a team of researchers in Minnesota will use state taxpayer money to find the best way to grow a type of minnow, known as golden luster, in captivity.
If fish farming is successful, it may help the state address the acute shortage of bait that has weakened fishermen with bigger trophies like walleye and northern pike. The project includes growing Golden Shine indoors, in man-made outdoor pots, and as part of a vegetable farm.
said Don Schreiner, a project researcher who specializes in fisheries and “aquaculture” at the University of Minnesota’s Sea Grant — a water science program in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
But golden sheen isn’t the only farm-raised fish in the proverbial Minnesota Sea. While some are concerned about the environmental risks of aquaculture, a group of people in the field — including walleye, shrimp and tilapia growers — see hope, and hope that a new aquaculture scheme proposed in the legislature will help ensure it is one of the next popular farming products In Minnesota it is raised in water and not in soil.
Minnows: Minnesota’s next big crop?
The field of aquaculture in Minnesota is small. Schreiner to lawmakers during Last week’s hearing at the State Assembly Committee on Agricultural Finance and Policy That the industry “conservatively” was worth about $5 million annually.
Fishing, on the other hand, is a multi-billion dollar industry in Minnesota. That’s why breeding bait can grow.
Mark Tay, who is working on captive bait breeding for the research project, said bait harvesting is getting more difficult in the wild, where much of the state’s supply comes from.
“If there’s an invasive aquatic species present in that waterway, there are a lot of rules and hurdles that you have to pass through to harvest minnows from there, if you can, because they don’t want to spread those aquatic invasive species,” Tay said. “And as you know every year the number of lakes with invasive aquatic species is increasing. We will not be able to stop that.”
Minnesota is now suffering from a lack of taste — and a fierce debate about how to solve the problem. Some Republican lawmakers want the state’s ban on importing minnows lifted, and they hope to benefit a large industry in Arkansas. But the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has I gave up on the idea, saying that importing golden sheen could lead to the spread of invasive species and fish diseases.
Instead of importing minnows, lawmakers this year passed legislation that relaxed some regulations around wild bait picking, approving $188,000 from the lottery-funded Environment and Natural Resources Trust for golden bait research.
In an interview, Schreiner said the study aims to find The best way to raise the golden shine, which grow to about 3 to 5 inches in market size. He said Minnesota is generally a difficult place to raise fish outside, because winters slow fish growth and can sometimes kill fish in ponds. “If you’re glossing over the outside, it takes two years to get to market size,” Schreiner said.
The group explores raising the golden sheen entirely indoors, including by growing them alongside vegetables in an “aquaponics” facility. Researchers are also trying to raise or hatch the golden sparkle indoors and then move it outside to established ponds in an effort to shorten the time it takes for the young fish to reach market size.
Ty has been raising minnows indoors for about two years approximately in 2010, “basically just a proof-of-concept that it can be done,” but now works at the University of Minnesota raising zebrafish and doing consultancy work on aquaculture. “This (Golden Shine) project is about figuring out some of the nitty-gritty so that someone can go to scale rather than a research scale or proof of concept scale,” Tay said.
The economic potential of aquaculture
Schreiner and others associated with the Golden Shine Project were at last week’s House hearing to testify in support of Bill sponsored by Representative Jenny Claiforn, DFL-Plymouth, and Senator Mike Goggin, R-Red Wing, to develop a state aquaculture plan led by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA).
Schreiner said the state is based on an aquaculture plan that was first written in the late 1980s and some have been updated, but it focuses heavily on bait and fish stock. He and several who grow fish or crustaceans testified at the hearing that food fish should be part of the new plan.
A lack of understanding in state agencies about aquaculture has led to a major rift between the company and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said Michael Seibel, president and CEO of Tru Shrimp in Balaton, Minnesota. After a battle over drainage rules, indoor shrimp farmers They moved a new factory they wanted to build in Luverne to South Dakota. Zebel said the new state plan could help avoid such issues.
“Minnesota has the resources to be an important player in aquaculture,” Zebel said. “We have water and feed, we definitely have people and people who are smart to develop this industry.”
Jessica Coburn, executive vice president of coordination for Blue Water Farms in Welch, said the company wants to build a leading company. Fish-eye Inland Farm in Minnesota To raise a ton of fish each year and compete with the Canadian governor’s trade. Coburn said they “appreciate” the state’s support in the form of grants and advice, but said that for medium and large-scale aquaculture projects to be successful, the state “needs to take an active role” in supporting and better understanding the industry.
Sean Sisler, commercial aquatic programs and fish health advisor at DNR, said the vast majority of aquaculture licenses issued in the state were for bait and fish stock, meaning farmed food fish is still a small part of the industry.
At least two government agencies have expressed support for the state’s plan for aquaculture. Thom Petersen, state agriculture commissioner, said aquaculture has been around for decades, but it hasn’t really taken off in the state, despite its promises.
The industry is eligible for grants from his agency, he said, and said aquaculture can create jobs in rural areas and also run on soy-based feed grown in Minnesota. “Our role is a marketing and promotional role,” Petersen said.
Sisler, of DNR, said aquaculture does have some risks.
For example, there could be pathogens in farmed fish that the DNR aims to prevent from escaping, and fish farms can dump waste that can harm water quality or spread disease. The agency is also working to prevent farmed fish from mixing with wildlife in a way that harms indigenous people. “Our aquaculture laws are designed to separate private and public aquatic life,” Sisler said.
However, Sisler said DNR generally supports aquaculture, particularly to support the raising of baitfish in Minnesota rather than importing it. It also makes sense to update the state’s aquaculture plan to consider farmed food fish, he said.
Representative Rick Hansen, a South St. Paul Devler who chairs the House Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Finance Policy, said he was concerned about freshwater fish and “cross-contamination with local fish and wildlife,” and said any saltwater discharges from Farm seafood is alarming and should be addressed in any government report.
He also said that the state should consider whether there is a procedure or rule governing the closure of fish farms. “It’s not that businesses will fail but if they fail, how do we make sure there is cleanup money available for a site so that the public is not responsible for cleaning up when a business fails and where there may be an environmental risk,” Hansen said during a committee hearing last week.
John Lenczewski, CEO of Minnesota Trout Unlimited, said he hopes the legislature will ensure that the DNR is deeply involved in writing any new aquaculture plan, so “the concerns about all of our wild populations and the wonderful fisheries of this state are front and center “.
Lenczewski said he supports alternatives to importing minnows and a highly regulated aquaculture industry that includes “closed-loop” systems that do not pose risks of contamination of the water or escape of fish. “The last thing we want to see,” he said, is “grid pen” fish farming operations in Lake Superior or businesses that pull a lot of water from aquifers and dump it downstream rather than clean and reuse it.
“I think we could have a big aquaculture industry, but we have big concerns because it’s always cheaper to do it in the least safe way,” said Lenczewski.
Schreiner said a review and update of the aquaculture plan could help solve problems in the industry by moving it forward. “This work reduces bushfires by addressing contentious issues up front, which I have found very much appreciated by lawmakers,” he said. “The plan will address the effects of aquaculture on public waters and natural fish stocks and other environmental concerns and balance this with the needs of the industry.”