Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Recirculating Aquaculture Systems Course
Midwest Region, December 16, 2015
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Recirculating Aquaculture Systems Course
Recirculating Aquaculture Systems Course - Photo Credit: USFWS

Staff from the Iron River National Fish Hatchery attended a course to prepare them for the introduction of recirculating aquaculture systems. The course, held at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point was instructed by the Freshwater Institute, a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture dedicated to conducting research related to aquaculture. Fish biologists from various tribal, state, federal and international agencies attended the course to expand their knowledge of this ever growing sector of aquaculture.

As the global demand for water increases and more strict environmental regulations are established, the availability of water for aquaculture is decreasing. In response to this hindrance, recirculating aquaculture systems were developed. Depending on the developmental plan these systems can operate on any level from complete flow-thru, 100% new water, to fully closed systems where only the water needed to initially fill the tanks is required.

Iron River Hatchery interest in these systems stems from the development of a coregonid production program funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Coregonidae describes the family of fishes in the Great Lakes that make up the main food source for the top predators of the Great Lakes system. Through many years of monitoring, it has been found that the numbers of these fish are in decline. One of the methods to curtail this decline is through the stocking of hatchery propagated fish, which means establishing a recirculating aquaculture system at Iron River Hatchery.

Attending the class taught the various systems available for stripping carbon dioxide and introducing oxygen.  Staff learned about bio-filters and how they control fish waste and advantages and disadvantages of various systems. Did you know fish need to exercise? Staff learned about maintaining proper flow rates that keep the fish moving but don’t over exert them. (This varies depending on the species.) Proper maintenance and troubleshooting for these systems was also covered. Most importantly, instruction delved into the engineering behind what systems are required to reach specific fish production levels. This will help the hatchery to construct the proper system to maximize production and efficiency.

Assuming current funding levels are maintained and allocations are met Iron River Hatchery hope to begin developing a coregonid facility in the near future. Even without the development of the new facility, hatchery staff brought back new ideas, knowledge and techniques for incorporation into the overall functionality of the station. Through courses like this, our biologists enhance their ability to work toward efficiently producing fish that meet the requirements of the programs for which they are intended.

Contact Info: Jorge Buening, 715-372-8510, jorge_buening@fws.gov
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