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Dec 10, 2015 5:33 PM

Saving Seafood: UNH researchers farm steelhead trout salmon breed to be served in New England

PORTSMOUTH - Evan Mallet is a chef, and now he is cooking up a new favorite among customers.

It’s a type of salmon called steelhead trout and it was raised in the Piscataqua River right here in New Hampshire.

“I was getting calls from Boston chefs asking about the legendary steelhead trout from UNH," Mallet, who owns the Black Trumpet restaurant in Portsmouth, said. "It’s really that good. Our local salmon population is exterminated so this is as close to local salmon as we’re going to get."

In the wild, steelhead trout are found in the Pacific Northeast and outside the United States. They are not found in New England.

Researchers from the UNH Cooperative Extension and N.H. Sea Grant designed the one-of-a-kind aquaculture project to see if it is feasible to farm the delectable salmon in New England waters.

On a floating raft off the coast of New Castle, they’re growing trout, mussels, and sea kelp together.

Clustered on long ropes, and tethered to the raft, the mussels act as bio filters to absorb and reduce nutrients, which create an environmental benefit.

Local fishermen who participate in the program are able to supplement their incomes with money they get when the fish is sold to markets.

“Right now, I think the solution is aquaculture,” said Rich Pettigrew who owns Seaport Fish, a seafood market in Rye.

Pettigrew buys the steelhead trout when it’s harvested in the fall, and sells it to several up-scale local restaurants.

The fish provides a sustainable option while encouraging shops and restaurants to buy locally-grown fish.

“Next year we should double or triple our production,” said Michael Chandler, a UNH researcher who helped develop the unique project that has brought salmon raising to New Hampshire.

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