New report on Wisconsin’s aquaculture industry

A new report about the state of aquaculture in Wisconsin, featuring results from a statewide survey of fish farmers, is now available. The survey was designed to assess Wisconsin’s aquaculture industry, with the goal of supporting local fish farmers and helping them grow and maintain their fish farm businesses.

“Aquaculture – or fish farming — is still relatively small in Wisconsin, and there’s a lot of room for growth,” says Bret Shaw, associate professor in the Department of Life Sciences Communication and environmental communication specialist for the Division of Extension at UW–Madison, who is a co-author of the report. “We are hoping this report will bring together stakeholders to discuss issues and implement plans to support this industry.”

The report describes results and identifies areas where the industry could be better supported. Results and recommendations include:

  • Overall, a majority of Wisconsin’s fish farms are small businesses in terms of pounds of fish produced per year (less than 20,000 pounds).
  • Rainbow trout is the most commonly farmed food fish in Wisconsin, followed by tilapia, yellow perch, salmon, and sunfish.
  • Most respondents use ponds to raise fish. To adopt more complex systems such as aquaponics or recirculation, farmers may need additional training and technical assistance.
  • Fish farmers were eager for more information, especially about regulations and fish health, from a variety of sources.
  • A majority of fish farmers also favored or strongly favored industry- and government-sponsored research on aquaculture.
  • Most fish farmers reported that they pursued their careers in aquaculture out of personal interest and enjoyment as well as for the quality of life the work provides.
  • The majority of fish farmers surveyed agreed that their aquaculture businesses are environmentally sustainable and satisfy their existing customers.

Many more findings and details are included in the final report, available online at

The survey was mailed to 300 fish farms across the state in October 2018. A total of 128 surveys were returned for a response rate of 43 percent.

The survey, funded by the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute, was a multi-institutional effort involving personnel from the UW Sea Grant Institute; UW–Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication; UW–Madison Division of Extension; UW–Stevens Point; and Iowa State University.