Aquaculture for all

Aquaculture in the City

MILWAUKEE - There are many reasons the urban aquaculture movement in Milwaukee supports the approach of fish farming in the city according to John Bales one of the founders of the Urban Aquaculture Centre in Milwaukee.

Growing fish indoors is a highly productive and secure means for producing fish at a time when the security of our food supply is a major concern, he says.

He maintains that aquaculture is a growth industry with the potential to alleviate health concerns with wild caught fish. It also addresses the US seafood trade deficit that in dollar value is second only to oil.

"In addition, we know that harvesting fish from Lake Michigan waters does not satisfy demand, and commercial yields of fish from many areas of the Great Lakes are substantially below historic levels. Demand continues to rise, and it is clear that aquaculture must grow with the demand," says Mr Bales.

"The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations informs us that compared to Asia’s contribution to the world’s aquaculture of over 90 per cent, all of North America contributes less than two per cent."

He adds: "Recent articles suggest that as a nation, we are not taking full advantage of the aquaculture research being produced by our excellent research institutions. The Great Lakes WATER Institute here in Milwaukee is a leading research center for growing yellow perch and sturgeon, and the transfer of technology for commercial production is encouraged, with new approaches welcomed by governmental agencies and educational institutions involved in this research and charged with its dissemination."

In Milwaukee, the Urban Aquaculture Center (UAC) is working to expand the industry using an approach that engages the community.

The UAC hopes to have Milwaukee lead the growth of urban aquaculture in the United States.

To address the problem of the risk involved in start-up operations, the UAC is seeking to have all of Milwaukee take on urban aquaculture as a new industry. This project requires the cooperation of all stakeholders — government, academia, and local businesses.

What the UAC proposes is a large-scale perch production facility and an education center for the public, oriented to urban agriculture, particularly aquaculture.

"Milwaukee is uniquely positioned for this endeavor for two primary reasons: its proximity to fresh water and to Growing Power, an urban teaching farm growing edible plants with fish in the same system." says Mr Bales.

"The Great Lakes WATER Institute and Growing Power are conducting experiments on the ability of plants, worms and bacteria to remediate water in a perch grow-out system. The results thus far are encouraging. Adult perch have done well in a greenhouse environment with only a pump to move water to gravel beds containing plants and beneficial nitrifying bacteria. This system, which closely mimics nature, shows promise."

He said there is more preliminary work to be done.

Proper design, analysis, and implementation of an urban fish farm are necessary to insure its success. This means a thorough feasibility study is needed by the stakeholders, including the public.

At all levels, a government’s commitment to provide increased support to the aquaculture sector is a prerequisite for the sector’s sustainable development, Mr Bales adds. Farming fish as an urban enterprise needs to be developed with the best management practices available. The UAC has been deliberate about assembling a board of directors with the talent and drive necessary to realize a possible $20 million center. Its initial goal is to conduct such a feasibility study.

The mission of the UAC includes preparing citizens to learn to live in a sustainable way through educational exhibits and community demonstrations on urban aquaculture and its global benefits. As a social enterprise, the UAC says it wants to become a destination attraction and develop a five-acre campus to house a research and education center, a production facility, restaurant and fish market.

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