The University of Minnesota Sea Grant program is developing producer-scale methods for raising Yellow Perch fish from egg to market size in a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS).
“Many Minnesota fish farmers are looking for a species that has a much higher market value than Tilapia; Yellow Perch might fill that niche,” said Amy Schrank, MNSG fisheries and aquaculture extension educator and project lead. “Minnesota Sea Grant has been actively engaged with Minnesota fish farmers since 2017 and raising Yellow Perch is one of the problems they asked us for help with.”
What are Yellow Perch?
Yellow Perch, also known as Lake Perch, are fish found in the drainages of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, the Great Lakes, and the Mississippi River basin. Yellow Perch flesh has a mild, sweet flavor with firm, flaky white flesh. They are highly sought after by ice anglers, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Why Yellow Perch? Yellow Perch are a highly prized food-fish in the Great Lakes region, from 5-star restaurants to Friday night fish fries. The harvest of wild caught Yellow Perch has plateaued, yet demand continues to increase (Clapp and Detmers 2004) and there is growing interest in the use of aquaculture to fill this unmet demand. Yellow Perch farms in Minnesota increased between 2013 and 2018, and in Wisconsin Yellow Perch production is second only to Rainbow Trout (USDA Census of Aquaculture 2018). Unfortunately, the supply of fingerlings for aquaculture is limited (Weldon 2019) and this problem was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic (van Senten et al. 2020). “Moving production of Yellow Perch from outdoor pond rearing to indoor RAS could increase overall production, increase growth rates, and expand the season when fresh Yellow Perch fillets would be available to consumers,” said Schrank. “We hope this project will also help increase the availability of biosecure fingerlings that fish farmers need.”
Fish-farm systems: With increased interest in using recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) and aquaponics systems there is an unmet demand for biosecure Yellow Perch fingerlings (juvenile fish) for grow out in these systems. A few research facilities have experimented with methods for indoor rearing of Yellow Perch and have had anecdotal success, however, methods for rearing in RAS has not yet been developed or accessible at the producer scale (Hart et al. 2006, Weldon 2019). Developing a proven methodology to raise Yellow Perch in RAS would increase production of Yellow Perch in the Great Lakes Region by increasing the capacity of the industry to produce market ready Yellow Perch over a prolonged season, and provide the much needed production of biosecure fingerlings for regional producers. In addition, it would allow producers to increase the vertical integration of their businesses in response to supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Funding: MNSG’s Yellow Perch project is funded by a $134,879 grant from the National Sea Grant Office and is one of 13 nationwide projects designed to address ongoing and long-term impacts associated with the COVID-19 pandemic on seafood resources, including aquaculture and the connection between aquaculture and wild-caught fisheries.
Goal: The goal of the Yellow Perch egg-to-market project is to develop methods and cost estimates accessible for small- to medium-size producers to hatch, feed-train, and rear Yellow Perch to fingerling and market size in a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS). These methods should address two of the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on fingerling supply:
- increase the supply of biosecure fingerlings for grow out in the Great Lakes region
- provide farmers the opportunity to increase farm vertical integration.
- Compare Yellow Perch rearing in a (1) flow-through system and a (2) recirculating aquaculture system (RAS).
- Compare Yellow Perch fish growth, mortality rates, and production costs for both fingerling and market-size fish in a flow-through and RAS.
- Engage with the Little Earth of United Tribes community to provide workforce development opportunities and outreach materials that will support the planned Little Earth Urban Farm aquaponics facility.
- Develop a Yellow Perch producers guide that details best practices and cost estimates for growing Yellow Perch in a RAS.
The two types of indoor fish-rearing systems the project will compare are a flow-through and a recirculating aquaculture system or RAS. The main difference between the two systems is that in a flow-through system the water is not reused and in a RAS the water is filtered and is reused within the tank. The two test systems will be located on the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus.
Timeline: September 1, 2021 to August 31, 2023.
Why Minnesota Sea Grant?
The Yellow Perch egg-to-market project supports Sea Grant's mission to enhance the practical use and conservation of coastal, marine and Great Lakes resources in order to create a sustainable economy and environment. Specifically, this project supports our national and state focus area of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.
What have we done lately?
- Our Yellow Perch have grown to adult or market size, and many have already been harvested for food fish or seafood.
- In mid-April 2022, we received our new Yellow Perch eggs. They will hatch in our hatching tank and then one half will be transferred to a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) and the second half will be transferred to a flow-through aquaculture system. We will grow both sets of fish to market size and compare growth, mortality, costs, and other variables between the two systems.
Yellow Perch rearing system at the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC) lab facility at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Image credit: A. Schrank.
Participants & audience
The Yellow Perch egg-to-market project seeks to serve aquaculture farmers, specifically Yellow Perch producers, in Minnesota and the Great Lakes region.
Project partners include Little Earth of United Tribes and Chad Hebert, program manager at the Little Earth Urban Farm.
MNSG’s Yellow Perch project is funded by a $134,879 grant from the National Sea Grant Office and is one of 13 nationwide projects designed to address ongoing and long-term impacts associated with the COVID-19 pandemic on seafood resources, including aquaculture and the connection between aquaculture and wild-caught fisheries.