Monday, January 12, 2015

Trout farming: A N.H. cottage industry piques interest of Maine fishermen

The University of New Hampshire, N.H. Sea Grant and seven N.H. fishermen are paving the road for a new cottage aquaculture industry: farming steelhead trout. Their collaborative efforts over the past few years have led to N.H. fishermen to take over the daily operations of raising and harvesting the trout which are then sold to local markets. Interest in steelhead trout aquaculture has been growing, especially in Maine with their many miles of coastline perfect for small scale, sea-based farming. Steelhead trout are well-suited to the Gulf of Maine environment as they are able to grow fast and withstand the cold temperatures and variations in salinity that occur in our waters. Trout fingerlings (small fish) are readily available from private hatcheries in both states. 

Maine fishermen, like their counterparts in N.H., find it challenging to remain in the wild-caught commercial fishing world. Aquaculture is proving to be an economically viable option that they could do part- or full-time. Their vessels and knowledge of working on the water lends itself nicely for small scale, cage culture.

As a result, Dana Morse, Maine Sea Grant Extension Specialist, lead a group of curious fishermen including Jeff Putnam, Hank Whetham, Lucy Van Hook from Maine Coast Fishermen's Association, and Megan Wibberly  from The Island Institute, to visit the aquaculture sites in N.H. recently. NHSG/UNHCE marine aquaculture specialist Michael Chambers helped to lead the tours. 

Above: Fishermen feeding and harvesting steelhead trout cages near the mouth of the Piscataqua River, N.H.
Above: Vinnie Marconi, N.H. fisherman, shows off the freshly harvested steelhead trout.

During their visit, the fishermen also visited with Dr. David Berlinsky, head of the UNH Aquaculture Research Center and Ritzman Lab, where they saw eight different strains of striped bass being grown in saltwater recirculating systems. This was something of a novelty, as striped bass and their hybrids are typically cultured in freshwater. 

Above: Maine fishermen visit the UNH Ritzman Lab to learn about striped bass in recirculating aquaculture systems. 

This research will provide information on which strains are more successful in adapting and growing in a marine environment for aquaculture purposes. Linas Kenter will be presenting these results at the Northeast Aquaculture Conference and Exhibition on January 15 in Portland, Maine.

Check out these videos of the trout taken by Dana Morse, Maine Sea Grant:

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