Florida company may build commercial eel farm in Michigan

Posted at 10:45 AM, Feb 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-18 10:45:52-05

ST. JOHNS, Mich. (AP) — A Florida-based company is considering building a $30 million eel farm in Michigan, which one state agriculture official said could be the first facility in the U.S. to commercially raise the long fish for food.

Aqua Vida Aquaculture is considering land in an industrial park in St. Johns, just north of Lansing, The Lansing State Journal reported . The facility would occupy up to 2 acres and could create about 25 jobs.

The facility would raise African longfin eel and American eel, said Kit Munday, the company’s founder. The fish are a source of “high quality protein” and are often grilled, stewed or roasted, he said.

The proposed project would be “self-contained,” which means the eels wouldn’t come into contact with lakes or rivers, Munday said. The facility would use water that’s recirculated and reused.

The facility would be the state’s first commercial farm that raises eel for food and it might be the first in the country, said Stephen Hussey, the aquaculture and poultry program manager for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

“We’re not aware of anyone in the U.S. that’s growing eels,” Hussey said.

The state first heard of the idea in 2016, Hussey said. Officials have spent two years conducting a risk analysis of the proposal, which included a review of the potential that eels could spread disease or harm the environment, he said. The state has created guidelines to prevent potential risks, such as requirements on how eels should be screened and quarantined, as well as specifics on the facility’s security and construction.

The company must acquire an aquaculture research permit to move forward, Hussey said. The state hasn’t yet received any formal applications for licenses or permitting for the project, he said.

Aqua Vida is still working to secure funding from investors and no timeline has been set for the project, Munday said.