A Response to The Detroit Free Press article “Fish farms threaten Great Lakes”

Organized in 1954 the United States Trout Farmers Association (USTFA) is the oldest ommercial aquaculture trade Association in the United States.

Fish farms threaten Great Lakes-Detroit Free PressUSTFA would like to respond to your September, 28, 2015 article in the Detroit Free Press, titled “Fish Farms Threaten Great Lakes” by Linda Lohror.

We share your concern for cold clean water, without it our trout farms would not exist. A large portion of our members sell their trout to fishing clubs, some Trout Unlimited clubs, conservation groups, municipalities, State agencies and other environmental loving people, who also require cold clean water to stock their trout.

The Lake Michigan Salmon Stocking program has been a great success and we are proud to point out that, up to the present day, hatcheries or fish farms have hatched the eggs and produced the smolts that have made this program possible. It would be a shame to lose this critical part of our resource management to an anti-aquaculture agenda.

Trout hatchery discharges are regulated by State agencies and the US EPA. Years of scientific study have gone into determining safe parameters which fish farms must meet in order to retain their discharge permits. The difficulty in dealing with trout farm discharge has always been that there is a very minute amount of waste within a very large flow of clean cold water.

The weight of food required to produce a pound of live weight gain in Rainbow trout is 1.1 to 1.2. This means that nearly all of the food consumed is converted into fish flesh. Fish meal and fish oil use in aquaculture continues to fall as researchers continue to find new sources that provide the same 40 essential nutrients needed by all animals. Fish oil and fish meal are only part of the ingredient mix used in fish food production. Rainbow trout produce more fish flesh then than they consume.

The Rainbow trout is native only west of the Rocky Mountains in North America. It’s value as a hard fighting game fish and a tasty, healthy meal has led to its introduction, with hatchery stockings throughout the world.

Pathogens and disease are a fact of life. Our trout farms use various biosecurity measures to reduce the possibility of a disease outbreak. Many pathogens that exist in nature are routinely excluded from trout farms. Fish losses from disease, predators and escape equal revenue losses for the farmer.

The presence of a trout hatchery on the Au Sable river will likely enhance the trout stream. The Michigan DNR has stated that nutrient levels in waters within Michigan are dropping due to the presence of Zebra Mussels. This means less food in the food chain for trout and salmon to consume, and as a result less trout and salmon to catch. NOAA states that “Nutrient discharge from fish farming operations is organic and comes from two sources – uneaten feed and fish poop, both are biodegradable and readily used by most aquatic ecosystems.”

In conclusion, USFTA believes your article contains misinformation and inaccuracies with respect to aquaculture practices and environmental impacts in the U.S. We understand that you have legitimate concerns, some of which we share, and we would welcome the opportunity to discuss the issues. It is our belief that the best way to proceed is to get together, discuss and address both of our concerns.

We can be contacted here for more information.

We look forward to speaking with you.

Sincerely,

Sean Nepper
USTFA President

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