Fish farmers interested in growing yellow perch may soon have a faster-growing option that could also decrease pressure on wild populations, thanks to Ohio Sea Grant researcher Hanping Wang, Director of the Ohio Aquaculture Research and Development Integration Program at the Ohio State University South Centers in Piketon. By selectively breeding the fish, Wang has developed yellow perch stocks that grow 28% to 42% faster than the typical fish and have potential to reach market size of 8.5 inches in just one year. This is a serious improvement over typical yellow perch, which often take two years to arrive at the same size, and could reduce costs for care and feeding of the fish by 30% to 40%.
Only increasing the profit margin for farmers will allow them to compete with the millions of pounds of yellow perch harvested from Lake Erie each year. It is worth the effort, however, to ensure that wild yellow perch populations remain sustainable, particularly as demand for fish as a lean protein increases along with the ever-growing human population.
The next step for Wang’s fish will be to test them on a commercial scale. "Our study so far has been at an experimental scale," he says. "We need to test it at an industrial scale, so we have recruited four farms-two in Ohio and two in Wisconsin-to test the new fish from 2011 to 2013."
If the trial-run farmers do see yellow perch that reach market size more quickly, the number of farms growing yellow perch for food could rise substantially in the next several years. A well-managed commercial pond in Ohio, ranging from a quarter to a half acre in size, can produce between 3,000 and 3,500 pounds of yellow perch per acre, yielding a potential 2,500 to 5,000 perch per pond.
To read more about this Ohio Sea Grant-funded research, visit http://ohioseagrant.osu.edu/_documents/twineline/v32i1.pdf