ST. PAUL, Minnesota —The aquaculture industry in Minnesota is looking for help from the state to develop a comprehensive plan for growth.

Several representatives from various aspects of aquaculture spoke on Tuesday, Oct. 12, before the Minnesota Legislature’s House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee in favor of a bill that would provide $100,000 to the to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to create such a plan.

Don Schreiner of Minnesota Sea Grant, a partnership of the University of Minnesota Duluth and the federal government, said aquaculture is a $5 million business annually in Minnesota, with about 50% of that in the bait industry, 25% in fish stocking of lakes and rivers, and 25% for food fish for consumers.

“It’s the fastest growing type of agriculture in the world,” Schreiner said.

While there is an aquaculture plan in Minnesota, he said it is more than 30 years old and needs updating.

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Even though bait fish is the biggest part of the state’s aquaculture industry, there continues to be a bait shortage in Minnesota.

Barry Thoele of Lincoln Bait, in Staples Minnesota, is the bait fish representative for the Minnesota Aquaculture Association. He said the bait fish industry is important to supporting tourism and wants to avoid having to import bait from other states, which carries the risk of introducing invasive species and pathogens into Minnesota waters.

“The Land of 10,000 Lakes should be able to produce enough bait fish for its own needs,” Thoele said.

The committee also was told that there is high interest in aquaculture among the minority community with an opportunity for economic development in urban areas.

Money for the plan is included in House Bill 2391, sponsored by Ginny Klevorn, D-Plymouth.