Aquaculture for all

Prisoners Raise Fish for Local Market

Sustainability Breeding & genetics +2 more

US - Thousands of tilapia are reared at Arrowhead Correctional Centre, where inmates harvest the fish for a vendor partner that supplies Whole Foods stores nationwide.

The tilapia fillets behind the glass seafood counter at Colorado Springs stores state “I’m a local” and list a Cañon City origin, but do not reveal they are produced in jail, reports

About 95 inmates have turned into fish-farmers, earning 60 cents a day. With bonuses, this amounts to a paycheck of about $40 a month.

The fish business started six years ago and is now the biggest industry at Arrowhead, a minimum-restrictive facility for offenders convicted of sex and drug/alcohol crimes.

Inmates aren’t fed the tilapia that Whole Foods sells for $9.99 a pound. Prison staff can buy the fish at a discount. Dave Block, fish manager for Correctional Industries, said the tilapia are raised hormone-free “in water, baking soda and salt.”

About 100,000 pounds of tilapia are sold every year, a figure Mr Block said will increase significantly when a bigger greenhouse opens in January.

Inside the existing greenhouse, the stages of fish life are played out in long, narrow 12,000-gallon fiberglass tanks made by inmates at a nearby correctional facility.

The genetic and breeding process produces 99-percent male fish, which are bigger than the tilapia females.

Females are relegated to breeding, where they are in service for six months before getting to rest up for a spell in the girls-only tanks. They are tossed out after being bred to the gills. “They are not big enough to fillet,” Mr Block said.