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Farmory wants to help bring local perch back to Friday Fish Fry

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Perch can be seen in a bag at the farmory in Green Bay. Feb .10, 2020. (WLUK)

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GREEN BAY (WLUK) -- Mike Parkinson sells about 3,000 pounds of yellow perch a week to restaurants and with Lent around the corner that demand is about to double.

"We won't be able to supply it this year," he said.

A DNR biologist says in recent years commercial fishers only harvest about 30,000 pounds from the Fox River a year.

Parkinson says many don't even want to do it. Most of his perch comes from Canada.

"There’s ice, then there’s no ice, so the fisherman can't get on the ice to fish. And then when they do fish they’re not doing very well," Parkinson said.

But that local yellow perch is a Wisconsin Fish Fry staple. Graystone co-owner Dan Timmers says his customers want to see it on the menu.

"We always say, you know, we want to be trendy and we want to have these other offerings but its... Perch is still the staple. Those dedicated perch diners that's what they're looking for," said Timmers.

A Green Bay non-profit is trying to boost the perch population in the Great Lakes. Inside twelve large tanks at The Farmory.

It's a former military building on Green Bay's east side, but it's now raising fish instead of soldiers.

NeighborWorks turned the old Chicago Street facility into a fish hatchery called The Farmory.

It hopes to raise 400,000 yellow perch by the end of their first year.

Claire Thompson, Executive Director of The Farmory says, "We can grow baby yellow perch out to about three inch size."

Once they reach adulthood, they'll be sold to aquaculture farmers.

"They will harvest the adults perch and then they will be sold to restaurants that will then end up on your perch plate," she said.

While places like the Farmory can supplement for some of the shortage, Parkinson says the demand is still too high for what they can produce.

He says he works with one fish hatchery in Oshkosh.

"They're too small. They have to get big big big," said Parkinson.

The food already being grown at the Farmory gets sold to local schools, hospitals, and restaurants.

A big part of the group's mission includes teaching people how to grow their own food, right at home.

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