March 5, 2002 - Fish Story

Here's a fish story about the half-million fish which got away - all the way from Abbeville to Toronto.

"I've developed a niche market," says Bert Steen. "I sell to the Asian Market live fish in Toronto, Canada. They swim all the way to Toronto from here." Actually they go in a huge truck, but it's an aquarium on wheels, so they are swimming all the way.

The guy who drives the truck is Bert Steen, who farm raises tilapia in Abbeville. He also delivers tilapia to Houston, Dallas, New York, Chicago. "As long as they're happy," says Bert. "That's all. I want to keep happy fish. Happy fish make baby fish, and then they also grow well."

The tilapia hails from North Africa and the Middle East and is known as St. Peter's fish. Bert tells why. "In the Bible, when St. Peter threw the nets on the other side of the boat and fed the masses, supposedly this is the fish that they caught. I wasn't there, but that's what they tell me."

St. Peter's fish is hearty, particularly well suited for farm raising. Bert raises about a half-million of them a year. It's a favorite dish in Asian cultures, but hasn't caught on in Louisiana because, "We have enough of our own native fish," says Bert.

But our mild climate and warm waters make the Bayou State a great place to grow tilapia. "It's just a lot of fun," smiles Bert. "I meet a lot of nice people from all over the United States." Bert Steen's fish farm is a "closed aquaculture system." He and the State Department of Fisheries keep close watch, to make sure none of the tilapia can escape into local waters.