UW-Stevens Point, Red Cliff Chippewa partner on lake herring study

Stevens Point, Wisconsin (AP) 3-08

With a growing demand for herring roe, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa are working together to find the best way to bring the fish to market.

Fish farming has become more important as the Great Lakes herring population has decreased in the past 10 years. At the same time, there’s more demand for herring roe, or eggs.

“People call it the ‘poor man’s caviar.’ It’s becoming very popular,” said Chris Hartleb, co-director of the UW-Stevens Point Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility.

NADF researchers and the Red Cliff Tribal Hatchery received a nearly $24,000 state grant to experiment with incubators and feeds to better culture the fish.

The work could benefit conservation efforts as well as the fishing industry, NADF facility manager Greg Fischer said.

“There’s a lot of interest from some ... Great Lakes including Michigan and Huron, where the herring populations are in peril,” Fischer said. “On the aquaculture side, lake herring has a lot of potential in the commercial market.”

Matt Symbal, natural resource manager of the Red Cliff Tribal Hatchery, said researchers hope to “come up with a cookbook of ‘dos and don’ts’ for rearing lake herring” and publish their results.

Lake herring can be difficult to raise because their eggs are free floating and wash away easily, Hartleb said. Still, researchers are optimistic.

“Both UWSP and the tribe believe that the lake herring is a prime cold water, fresh water species that can be successfully raised here in Wisconsin on a mostly grain-based diet,” he said.