American Unagi LLC
PO Box 81
Maine's multimillion dollar juvenile eel fishing industry currently ships elvers or glass eels to farms in Asia, where they are grown to marketable size and exported back to the U.S. Recognizing an opportunity to provide local, sustainable seafood, Sara Rademaker has made progress in moving towards commercial eel aquaculture production in Maine. Sea Grant funds in 2014 (DV-14-17) supported testing of commercially available feeds for eel aquaculture. Since then, American Unagi, LLC has grown from research and development to a production facility capable of raising one metric ton of adult American eel.
In this study, Rademaker focused on the consumer side of American eel product development. There is currently no information on nutritional value or contamination levels of wild or farm-raised American eel. Using University of Maine's USDA-approved laboratory, Rademaker developed recipes for smoking eel, and evaluated the nutritional value, including Vitamin D, and contamination with mercury and PCBs, of wild-caught smoked American eel product and a farm-raised smoked eel product. A UMaine Innovation Intern helped with market research, focus groups, and surveys. "This allowed us to understand the potential increased production and income potential of value-added production and potential markets from locally produced aquaculture product," said Rademaker.
Supplementing the Sea Grant funds is an award from USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grant, which will support further work on improving economics of eel production in the U.S. Processing for aquaculture production can lead to increase in year-round use of Maine's fish processors and could lead to the addition of a new product line to smokehouses in Maine.
Sea Grant funds $4,480