DV-14-17 Testing diets for American eel aquaculture

Sara Rademaker
American Unagi, LLC

Maine has unique access to juvenile wild American eels (glass eels or elvers), which support a global eel aquaculture industry. Maine’s multimillion dollar elver fishery currently ships its glass eels to farms in Asia. Growing out glass eels to market size here can increase the value of eels nine-fold. In moving towards commercial eel aquaculture production in Maine, identifying appropriate feed and available sources for eels is a critical part of successful development an aquaculture industry.

Eel aquaculture begins with wild-caught glass eels that must be acclimated to aquaculture conditions and trained to take a commercial fish feed. Rademaker has worked with 100 glass eels since May of 2014 to successfully establish techniques for weaning them onto commercial diets with 97% survival. Without a critical mass of eel farms in the U.S., the major feed suppliers do not carry an eel-specific food, however some of their available diets are similar to European diets used in eels farms. In this study, Rademaker tested commercially available feeds for grow-out, and successfully raised eels to market size.

American Unagi, LLC has grown from research and development to a production facility capable of raising on metric ton of adult American eels. Sea Grant funds were leveraged to win a Seed Grant from Maine Technology Institute and a collaboration on Maine Technology Asset funding with UMaine and several other aquaculture businesses. American Unagi has also used the information from this program development project in applying for a USDA funds for further work on improving economics of eel production in the US, and additional Sea Grant funding was awarded in 2017 to test value-added products.

Sea Grant funds: $1,000