GREEN BAY, Wis. (WLUK) -- Friday fish fries are popular across the state.
“I'm selling 2,000 a week and I'm pretty much the king of the roost,” said Michael “Parky” Parkinson, who owns Blue Harbor, a fish market right on the waters of Green Bay at the mouth of the bay.
But he isn’t the only one. He estimates about 5,000 whole yellow perch fish are sold a week for people to consume.
“Times that by 52, that's a lot of fish, and that's just Green Bay,” said Parky.
Most of his perch comes from Canada.
“Nobody’s making a living off of it anymore, in the Bay anyways,” he said.
The Department of Natural Resources says Lake Michigan continues to see a declining population of yellow perch.
“The number of yellow perch surviving their first year of life has caused a reduction in the number of perch in Lake Michigan”
A local campaign has been started to fix up a 99-year-old building and turn it into an aquaponics fish farm -- The Farmory.
"We’d love to be able to offer locally grown sustainably raised perch right here in Wisconsin," said Claire Thompson, The Farmory’s executive director. “Our goal is to produce yellow perch commercially and grow out up to 40,000 whole yellow perch and sell them into institutions and restaurants in the Green Bay area,” said Thompson.
The Farmory, which is a nonprofit, has what it calls a totally sustainable model with a goal of zero waste. The fish water is also used in soil, and the nutrients will help to maintain their plants.
In addition, they'll aim to produce a half-million baby perch each year to sell them to fish farmers.
But Parky isn’t convinced. He says fish farms can’t compete with commercial fishing services.
“I’ve dealt with probably five or six of them in the last few years. Never have I found a successful one. One that can produce enough fish to matter,” said Parkinson.
He says to produce enough to supply perch consistently they’d probably need close to 100 acres of land.
“I guess their minds don’t go big enough,” he said. “So, it’s not going to affect the industry no matter what they do, unless they get a good sense of what we use, and so far none of them has come to us and said 'what do you need?'"
The Farmory, right now, has 100 perch and one aqua tank. By the time it opens next year, plans call for a total of twelve aqua tanks.
The organization is currently raising money to finish the building. Thompson says the Farmory will also provide education to the community and those who want to know where their food comes from.