Wisconsin has a rich tradition of recreational fishing and Friday night fish fries. It’s commercial fishing fleet, numbering 70 license-holders, harvests from lakes Michigan and Superior and is worth about $5 million annually. The aquaculture sector is growing and is valued at $21 million annually.
Wisconsin Sea Grant (WISG) recognized an opportunity to expand consumer interest in locally caught or grown fish. It undertook an initiative termed Eat Wisconsin Fish to connect fishermen and aquaculturists with retailers, restaurant owners and operators, chefs and culinary schools. In part, to complete these efforts, the program secured a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture and Consumer Education.
WISG launched a new website, eatwisconsinfish.org, conducted a “summit” to introduce all the interested participants in this effort to each other. The event featured talks and demonstrations and attracted 63 people. Attendees were surveyed and the majority reported an increased awareness about Wisconsin fish. The initiative also led to the development of a buyer’s guide to make it easier for providers and purchasers to connect. More than 250 print copies were distributed and the guide is also available online. WISG staff projects an increase in Wisconsin fish sales of $106,000 annually thanks to Eat Wisconsin Fish. The initiative has also sparked conversations within the Great Lakes region about how to educate consumers, chefs and retailers about regional fish through a joint effort.