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RAS Perch Aquaculture Facility Agreement Signed

University of Wisconsin Sea Grant College Program

For More Information:
	Fred Binkowski, Advisory Services Aquaculture Specialist, (414) 382-1700 
	Stephen Wittman, Assistant Director for Communications, (608) 263-5371


MADISON, Wis. (1/22/98) -The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians and the
University of Wisconsin System Aquaculture Institute in Milwaukee have
signed an agreement to study the potential for raising yellow perch at an
aquaculture facility to be built on the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota.

A $10,000 grant from the UW Sea Grant Institute and a matching $10,000 from
the Red Lake Band will cover the cost of constructing a commercial-scale
Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) unit at the UW Aquaculture
Institute, which will be used to train Red Lake fisheries personnel.  An
additional $65,000 from Red Lake will fund the installation of a
demonstration unit at Red Lake this winter, as well as a commercial-scale
system to be built in the near future.

This unique cooperative effort is designed to help revitalize the tribe's
fisheries industry, boost the local economy and offer a fish-farming model
for other tribes and entrepreneurs to follow.  If all goes according to
schedule, the tribe could begin harvesting yellow perch in the fall of 1999.  

"This may be good news for nearly 700 members of the Red Lake Band who have
recently lost their only source of employment," said Dave Conner, Red Lake
tribal fisheries director.  "The tribe has been fishing commercially on
both Upper and Lower Red Lakes since 1917.  It became so lucrative that a
fish processing plant was built right here.  But walleye stocks have shown
significant signs of over-exploitation recently, causing the Red Lakes
Fisheries Association to voluntarily close down the commercial fishing
season in 1997."

The Red Lake commercial fishery has a significant economic impact on the
area, regularly pumping more than a million dollars annually into the local

"The record 1992-93 perch harvest was worth several million dollars," said
tribal fisheries biologist Pat Brown.  "There historically has been a huge
demand for Red Lake walleye and perch in this region.  When the fishery
closed, it didn't only hurt members on the reservation.  The town of
Bemidji relies heavily on the dollars that the commercial fishery brings
in, as the band members go down there and do their shopping.  So it's not
just the reservation people that are being affected by this, but the whole
local economy."  

 A one-year moratorium on commercial fishing is unlikely to allow enough
time for the fishery to recover.  
"Ten years might be more accurate," said Conner.  "But the Red Lake Band
wants to stay in the fish business.  We have the trained work force, the
market and the processing plant as well as the tradition,  so we began
exploring alternatives, such as aquaculture.  When we first started
noticing a decline in the fishery a couple of years ago, the Bureau of
Indian Affairs recommended we contact Fred Binkowski at UW-Milwaukee."

Binkowski has been raising Red Lake perch broodstock at his Milwaukee
laboratory since 1995.  

"Under the new agreement, we will combine our knowledge of the Red Lake
perch biology with the Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) technology,"
said Binkowski, aquaculture director at the UW System Wisconsin Aquatic
Technology & Environmental Research Institute (WATER). 

He explained the RAS unit involves raising fish in tanks, which requires
extremely demanding standards of water quality and waste removal.
Binkowski added that the RAS technology might prove to be the most
efficient and cost-effective method of raising yellow perch in captivity. 

"At our Milwaukee facility, the Red Lake personnel will learn the
engineering aspects, the water quality aspects and then, perhaps most
importantly, they'll be learning about the biology and intensive
aquaculture of yellow perch," he said.  "If all goes according to plan, we
will then construct the commercial-sized operation at Red Lake and
hopefully begin harvesting in the fall of 1999."

A successful RAS unit will help tribe members return to commercial fish
production and will mean fish with the Red Lake label will once again grace
the dinner tables of the north-central United States.  Also,  lessons
learned through this project might open doors for others. 

"This is more than a one-time shot," Binkowski said.  "We already have had
some contact with other tribes as well as private groups from the state,
region and country interested in yellow perch aquaculture."

As the Aquaculture Specialist with UW Sea Grant Advisory Services,
Binkowski also has done some work on whitefish aquaculture with the Leech
Lake Band in Minnesota.

# # # #

Created in 1968, the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute is a
national network of 29 university-based programs of research, outreach and
education dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of the United
States' coastal, ocean and Great Lakes resources.  The National Sea Grant
Network is a partnership of participating coastal states, private industry
and the National Sea Grant College Program, National Oceanic & Atmospheric
Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce.