Strategic Plan for Michigan Aquaculture
Abstract: Commercial aquaculture has been underdeveloped in Michigan and the Great Lakes Region at a time when global demand for seafood is on the rise and global capture fisheries have reached maximum yield. Michigan is situated centrally to the abundant freshwater resources of the Great Lakes basin – with 20% of the world’s available freshwater. The strategic plan for the sector provides a roadmap to the creation of a thriving and sustainable aquaculture that can provide abundant healthy food while preserving and improving water resources for other uses including tourism/recreation, industry, and other forms of agriculture.
Science for Great Lakes Net Pen
The State of Michigan has received concept proposals from proponents to establish privately owned net-pen operations in public waters of the Laurentian Great Lakes. To determine an appropriate response to these proposals, Michigan’s Quality of Life (QOL, agencies) group, i.e., the departments of Agriculture and Rural Development, Environmental Quality, and Natural Resources, established a Scientific Advisory Panel to provide scientific insight into aquaculture and its impact on lake ecosystems. The QOL group seeks to evaluate these and other requests so as to manage the public waters of the State of Michigan in an ecologically sound manner, while also fostering economic development where practical.
The Advisory Panel presented a report that was developed based on general aquaculture principles and information for finfish culture, recognizing that the specifics, i.e., a fish species in a particular Great Lake, would not be available, though information will be included if available. A complete list of the species permitted for aquaculture is included in the Michigan Aquaculture Development Act, Act 199 of 1996. Of the species permitted for aquaculture by Michigan, those likely to be of greatest interest to aquaculture proponents in the Great Lakes are Rainbow Trout (Onchorhynchus mykiss), Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar), Lake Whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis), Walleye (Sander vitreus), and Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens). Of this group of fishes, Lake Whitefish, Walleye, and Yellow Perch are native to the Great Lakes; Rainbow Trout have been naturalized in these systems. As a panel, we developed our report with these species in mind.
“Roadmap through Regulation” for Michigan Aquaculture Industry
Taking Aquaculture in Michigan (AIM) to the future: a “Roadmap” for the aquaculture sector to understand the underlying regulatory framework for operation expansion and new farm enterprise development.
The State of Michigan enjoys abundant water resources and a diverse agricultural base, including an aquaculture sector poised for expansion in response to the opportunities from the domestic seafood market. While in the past Michigan aquaculture has focused on bait, pond stocking, and fee fishing, there is now opportunity for growth in producing fish for human consumption.
By the year 2050, the world will need twice as much food – and four times as much protein. The USA currently imports approximately $11 billion worth of seafood, much of which comes from Southeast Asia. That quadrant of the world has over half of the world’s population and, as more of these people enter the middle class, their local demand for protein will place increasing pressure on the supply coming to America. Furthermore, the American people have an increasing desire to know the source of their food, for reasons including food safety, local-sourcing preferences, and freshness – perceived or real. Consequently, Michigan, along with the broader Great Lakes region, has both an opportunity and a responsibility to leverage its water, land, skills, and stewardship resources (including proper regulation) to promote a thriving aquaculture economy that maintains a healthy ecosystem and provides the benefits of jobs and good nutrition.
For those seeking to build new facilities or expand existing infrastructure in Michigan, the Aquaculture Industry Committee (an ad hoc industry group comprised of producer, regulator, trade association, university, and extension personnel) Request for Proposal identified the need for a “How-to-Guide” as a “Roadmap” to navigate through the various regulations pertaining to aquaculture. This Roadmap will serve as a valuable resource to the private, public, and tribal facilities that hope to understand the regulatory situation in Michigan.
The Michigan Aquaculture Association’s (MAA) current strategic plan proposes that Michigan’s aquaculture sector can grow from $5 million annually with 100 direct jobs to over $100 million with 1,500 direct jobs.1 In its 150-year history, the Michigan aquaculture sector has a track record of sound management in environmental practices and safety, with no invasive species released.2 In this context, there is clearly great opportunity to realize this $100 million opportunity.