Aquaculture

What is aquaculture?

Aquaculture in Vermont is a small but growing industry involving the culture of food in water, be it fish, shrimp, shellfish, or algae. In addition to state-run fish hatcheries, Vermont has a small community of private aquaculturists that have ranged in number since the mid-1980s from about 20 to currently seven.

Most aquaculture in Vermont is related to trout. Rainbow and brook trout are by far the most prolific of the cultured fish raised in the state. The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department raises the most fish, hands down. The state has five hatcheries that raise brook trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, lake trout, land-locked salmon, walleye, and muskellunge or muskie. All are raised for stocking into state waters for the benefit of the public. The hatcheries are open to the public as well. Find one near you through the Visit A Hatchery webpage.

Private hatcheries are just as spread across Vermont as state hatcheries. There are seven operations, located in Newport, Bakersfield, Wheelock, Starksboro, Charlotte, Randolph Center, and Shrewsbury. Besides trout, shrimp, tilapia, and micro-algae are also products of the Vermont land-based aquaculture industry. There is also a hatchery in Paul Smiths, New York, within the Lake Champlain basin, and it raises heritage strains of brook trout and Atlantic salmon. Find fish hatcheries and farms in the Lake Champlain basin.

Why is Lake Champlain Sea Grant interested in land-based aquaculture?

Supporting land-based aquaculture is a way for Lake Champlain Sea Grant to contribute to U.S. food security and sovereignty. According to a  NOAA Fisheries 2019 report (PDF), the U.S. fishing industry caught nearly nine billion pounds of seafood in 2019, a number that has changed little in 20 years. In comparison, aquaculture in the U.S. has grown from roughly 90 million to 95 million pounds per year since 2013, with year over year increases in volume and value since 2016. Still, Americans import 70 to 85% of the seafood we consume. 

What can land-based aquaculture do for Vermont?

At Lake Champlain Sea Grant we are dedicated to innovative solutions and committed to providing technical and logistical support to existing and new fish farmers any way we can. We recognize the need for alternative solutions in the dairy farm industry and view aquaculture in Vermont as an option worth exploring.  

How is Lake Champlain Sea Grant helping to advance land-based aquaculture?

In a word, education, education, education! A report from Wisconsin on fish consumption (PDF) pointed out that consumers like local products, including fish, though they believe wild-caught fish is better and they see the cost of fish as a problem. At Lake Champlain Sea Grant, we are striving to close the information gap between assumptions about aquaculture and fisheries and what aquaculture can do for local communities and the planet if done correctly and with integrity. 

We are telling the stories of Vermont aquaculturists so consumers understand what they are buying and its importance to the local economy. We are working with local educators to raise the profile of local fish and because aquaculture is a great integrator of science concepts, from grade school all the way to college. And we are doing our best to get the next generation excited about (fish) farming. 

For more information, contact Theo Willis, Lake Champlain Sea Grant Aquaculture Education Specialist: Theodore.Willis [at] uvm.edu