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Aquaculture, the husbandry of aquatic plants and animals, is a natural-resource based segment of Idaho’s agricultural economy. The Thousand Springs Reach of the Mid-Snake River supplies high-quality spring water that is well oxygenated and at the optimum temperature for rainbow trout. The presence of these springs has allowed the industry to develop into one of the largest aquaculture sectors in the nation. Overall, Idaho is ranked within the top ten states for aquaculture production and value.

Aquaculture Facts

  • Idaho is the number 1 producer of trout in the United States.
  • Idaho accounts for about 75% of all domestic trout production in the nation.
  • An estimated 95% of all trout consumed in the U.S. is farm-raised.
  • Idaho trout production averages around 41 million pounds annually.
  • Other species produced include over a million pounds of tilapia, a warm water fish similar to a perch that’s native to Africa; blue and channel catfish and about 400,000 pounds per year; sturgeon meat and caviar, some ornamental production, and even alligators!
  • Aquaculture products satisfy an estimated 50% of our seafood needs.
  • Idaho Aquaculture Trout Production Statistics (pdf)

Trout Aquaculture

The first commercial trout farm was established in 1909 near Devil’s Corral just outside of Twin Falls. Today Idaho is the number 1 producer of rainbow trout in the nation. TroutOn average, 41 million pounds of rainbow trout are produced annually, supplying 75% of domestic production. In addition to rainbow trout, Snake River white sturgeon, catfish, tilapia, ornamental fish, and even alligators are farmed in the Magic Valley. Approximately 98% of Idaho’s aquaculture production occurs in Twin Falls, Gooding and Jerome counties.

The Idaho aquaculture industry is vertically integrated and includes equipment manufacturing, facility design and construction, production, processing, feed production, fish health diagnostic services, packaging, marketing, sales, and distribution. There are around 80 fish farms throughout the Magic Valley, with the majority of fish farms located in Twin Falls and Gooding counties. Two processing plants and a value-added plant are located in Twin Falls County. There are also 3 processing plants in Gooding County. Nearly all the rainbow trout produced are processed for human consumption, with an increasing proportion in recent years being further processed into value-added products such as boneless fillets, ready-to-eat and microwaveable meals, jerky, spreads and smoked products. Essentially all the tilapia grown in Idaho (more than 2 million pounds) are transported live to Asian markets on the west coast and in Canada. However, the majority of catfish and sturgeon are processed. The alligators are processed both for meat and hides. Two fish feed mills, located in Twin Falls County supply 65-70% of the feed used by the farms. Overall, directly and indirectly, the industry employs 1,500 people and is valued at 90 to 100 million dollars annually.

During the past 10-15 years considerable improvements have occurred in feed manufacture and waste management as a result of university research and extension, which has resulted in improved water quality existing fish farms thereby improving water quality in the mid-Snake. Total phosphorus discharge has been reduced by approximately 40% from 1990 baseline loads.

Although spring flows have declined since the mid-1950’s, the current drought has greatly exacerbated the situation resulting in a water crisis for all water users. Hydrologists estimate the aquifer is being depleted by over 400,000 acre-feet per year.

Environmental regulations, water quantity and profitability will be the driving forces that shape the future of the aquaculture industry. Efforts by research and extension in cooperation with industry, local state, and federal agencies will attempt to ensure the vitality and continued sustainability of this important industry in the Magic Valley.

Aquaculture Publications

Publications are in PDF format. To read them you may need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader®.

Aquaculture Links

EPA Aquaculture Permit Workshop Documents

 November 28, 2012
Nov 272012

Gary FornshellExtension Educator, Aquaculture
(208) 734-9590

 November 27, 2012