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Raising fish on the farm

(June 8, 1994)   —   What do fish eat? Anglers have agonized over the question for years. Now, scientists are also raising the issue, but for different reasons.
It’s not to catch them, according to nutritionist Dr. Margie Lee Gallagher of East Carolina University. It’s to help them grow up to be big and strong.
Gallagher, a scientist with the Institute for Coastal and Marine Resources and a nutrition professor in the ECU School of Human Environmental Sciences, has studied fish food for several years. Her primary interest is in food for hybrid striped bass.
These fish are raised commercially, on farms, in a developing industry called aquaculture. Just as the correct feed is important to growing meaty animals and poultry, the right kind of food is also important to producing fat and healthy striped bass.
In her latest study, funded by a grant from the University of North Carolina Sea Grant Program, Gallagher is looking at how different foods affect the size and growth of hybrid striped bass eggs, fingerlings and brood stock.
Specifically, she is feeding groups of fish with food containing different amounts of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. As the fish grow, she checks the growth rates and body composition of samples.
“Aquaculture of hybrid striped bass is a developing industry in the U.S., yet its nutritional requirements are now well understood,” Gallagher said.
She said some previous studies have suggested that what fish eat is important to their growth. The current research, will help further identify the effects of growth and its relationship to such things as reproduction, liver function, and the utilization of nutrients.