I can’t not speak on the issue. It has many of us at an level of outrage that is so frustrating. I can barely comprehend the state of insanity one must be in to think this is a viable option. If you are unaware of recent developments on the proposed increased production of trout at the Grayling hatchery from newly acquired leasee- Harrietta Farms- please read here.
The Anglers of the Au Sable, along with notable fly shops that have much invested in not only one of the best little trout streams in northern Michigan, but perhaps the best, highest quality trout river in the Midwest have made their opinion very clear- wrong place, and wrong time. A facility that is a century old, built for much smaller production and volume, simply cannot handle triple the load. Similar to purchasing a hundred year old farm house and expecting the the hot tub, dishwasher, microwave, internet router and Hi-def TV to not blow your circuit breaker, the system needs to be updated and a major overhaul required. The DEQ stated it does see a ‘possible risk’ of escapement and overflow of feed, not to mention the increased volume of fish fecal material that will immediately dump into the East Branch of the Au Sable, along with exponentially elevated concentration of phosphorous levels which eventually will dump into the main stream and the much revered Holy Waters. What if something happens? The new owners claim they will take care of any accidents. But who will pay for clean up? You can’t remedy a total fish loss in a river ecosystem of this quality. Reading some comments from various articles infuriates the angler conservationist in me even more. One stated that because it was on the “Flies Only” section, it was not any concern of his or other anglers who should be able to fish without restriction. Ironic, because that is exactly why this river is so special, but that individual may never understand the concept. Never mind the fact that all things flow downstream, and the same devastating affects of too much excrement choking the life out of every macro invertebrate will eventually do the same on the rest of the river, gear restricted or not.
“Smart people learn from the mistakes of others.” Retired MDNR biologist speaks against fish farm practice in Great Lakes.
There is also much debate on the legislative floor as to whether aqua culture in the Great Lakes will be a resource to assist in food production for major markets. The practice is not unheard of, and already utilized by our neighbors to the North. I have been beating my head against the wall to determine an angle you haven’t already read or heard on various media outlets. Then it occurred to me, I am in the industry, on a couple of different levels. First- as an employee of a restaurant, where tourism/resort industry is vital, and we sell salmon as well as whitefish on our menu. Salmon is without a doubt #2 selling item as far as seafood inventory. Weekly, we sell between 30-40 pounds of Scottish (farm raised) salmon. My favorite meal of all time was Copper River Salmon with albino asparagus, morel mushroom beurre blanc and fiddle head ferns, but we can’t all afford dining at that level. I worked at places where we sold Copper River Salmon, but at $30/lb. it is out of our price range for our current menu. Summer numbers can double that figure, and we sell more whitefish than anything else, year around. I understand the need for sustainable protein and fully support WILD/Line caught fish, but this day and age, affordability becomes the key factor. Perhaps we need to lessen our consumption of third and fourth level consumers, or, here is an idea, go out and catch a fish to bring home and eat(personally prefer walleye). Secondly, as a guide on waters that can be directly affected by adverse scenarios where escapement and disease could be detrimental to our fisheries. Not to mention the depletion of dissolved oxygen in and around net pen areas. The concentration of feces consumes O2 and becomes a ‘Dead Zone’, these areas are becoming more prevalent throughout the Great Lakes, largely due to the filtering efficiency of zebra and quagga mussels.
What should we be doing? What can be done to help stabilize our Great Lakes? Perhaps we should be looking for answers in the bottom of the food pyramid, instead of taking from the top. Is there a feasible solution in those things we cannot see? Should efforts be focused on improving phytoplankton and zooplankton? Diatoms and other rotifers are the basis for the rest of the food chain which have been decimated in recent decades by our invasive filter feeders. If we can re-establish the microscopic animals, we can once again see a resurgence in minnow and baitfish populations, which eventually will assist in a healthy ecosystem.
Contact your State Representative:
Recent polling from Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council shows 3 out of 4 northern Michigan residents oppose the proposed net-pen aqua culture. This is particularly important to those in Escanaba and Rogers City where possible farming could take place. Canadian authorities claim no escapement nor any disease near their farming facilities, but reports from anglers in many once prominent steelhead rivers claim the fish factories have had an impact on returning spawning runs.
The biggest question on both issues is of most importance, and I have been digging around to find the answer, but none seem apparent. Where is the major support coming from for these projects? Who is the individual or company with the Golden Spoon that has connections on a much higher level in our state agencies to seem to by-pass the concern of the citizens? Only when we discover the source, will we understand the issue. I fear the pockets on the opposition are far deeper than Lake Superior and their primary goal is to fatten them, at any cost. This will be a long, drawn out battle.