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Raising bluegill for food markets to be highlighted at aquaculture conference


New methods of producing bluegill for food markets will be a highlight of the 2010 Missouri Aquaculture Conference, Jan. 12 to 13 at Lincoln University's Carver Farm in Jefferson City.

"Raising bluegill in ponds or cages for food markets may offer income opportunities for aquaculture producers and pond owners here in Missouri," said Bob Pierce, University of Missouri Extension fisheries and wildlife specialist.

Research by MU and Lincoln University scientists on improved brood stock, cage culture and feed techniques has shown that it's possible to raise bluegill to market weight in about 18 months.

"It takes about three years for bluegill to grow to a half-pound under normal conditions," said Chuck Hicks, principal investigator for aquaculture research at Lincoln University. "Cutting that time to less than two years is essential to making bluegill a commercially viable food fish in Missouri."

Bluegill, also known as perch, bream and coppernose, among other names, is a common resident of Missouri lakes and ponds. According to Pierce, the native sunfish has potential to become a competitive local alternative to popular aquaculture species such as tilapia.

Hicks will provide a step-by-step overview of raising bluegill in cages. Russell Gerlach, aquaculture project coordinator at Lincoln, will show how to build durable cages from off-the-shelf parts for about $75 each.

Other presenters will include Marvin Emerson of Crystal Lake Fisheries and Kevin Flowers of Flowers Fish Farm, who will offer producer perspectives on biosecurity and fish health testing.

Mark Russell, agribusiness development manager with the Missouri Department of Economic Development, will cover financial incentives available to aquaculture producers in the state. Bart Hawcroft, aquaculture specialist for the Missouri Department of Agriculture, will discuss an aquaculture grant that he administered in 2009.

Royce Wilson, veterinarian with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, will provide an update on viral hemorrhagic septicemia, a highly contagious disease that has triggered large die-offs of fish in the Great Lakes.

Other topics will include state import regulations, state economic development incentives and federal disaster assistance programs.

Bruce Drecktrah, manager of the Missouri Department of Conservation's Blind Pony Hatchery near Sweet Springs, will talk about renovations at the hatchery, which is producing pallid sturgeon to restore populations of this endangered fish in the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

The conference is sponsored by the Missouri Aquaculture Association, Missouri Department of Agriculture, Lincoln University and MU Extension.

Registration begins at 12:30 p.m., Jan. 12. The Missouri Aquaculture Association is encouraging attendees to visit their state legislators while in Jefferson City, either in morning before the meeting begins Jan. 12 or in the afternoon after the meeting adjourns Jan. 13. Registration is $15 per person before Jan. 5 and $20 thereafter. The student rate is $5 before Jan. 5 and $10 thereafter.

Send registration and payment to Missouri Aquaculture Association, P.O. Box 6864, Jefferson City, Mo., 65102.

For more information about the program or for registration details, see http://moaa.pond.org or call Bart Hawcroft, Missouri Department of Agriculture, at 866-466-8283.

Accommodations at the Truman Hotel in Jefferson City are available at a discounted rate if you make reservations by Jan. 5. Call 800-392-0202 or 573-635-7171 for reservations.

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