By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Apr 02, 2008 at 12:16 AM

If things look a little greener around here this April, there's a good reason. Our editorial staff is busy expanding the ideals of Earth Day into a month-long celebration of energy conservation, alternative transportation, recycling tips and about a million ways you can be a better friend to the planet. Welcome to Green Month, Milwaukee.

Within 10 years, the fishing industry will find it necessary to modify practices because long term mass capture of fish resulted in a shortage of  schools and many that are plagued with toxic pollutants like mercury and PCBs. The outlook sounds grim – especially for a city filled with fish fry lovers – but Jon Bales and Leon Todd have a solution for Milwaukee.

They proposed an Urban Aquaculture Center (UAC), a large-scale production and educational facility, to serve as an “urban fish farm.” The center would provide a solution to many of the environmental problems associated with unsustainable current fishing practices.

The proposed UAC includes a 150,000-sq. ft. indoor aquaculture / agriculture facility with an attached greenhouse located on five acres of redeveloped land, ideally along the Hank Aaron Trail and Menomonee River or a large, unused factory site.

Also, the center would feature classrooms for school groups, free demonstration to the public, a “lazy river” boat ride that floats through sustainable urban farming exhibits, restaurant, gift shop and fish market.

“My vision for the Urban Aquaculture Center is to develop a fish production-oriented center in a pleasant setting in Milwaukee to demonstrate that aquaculture is a viable and sustainable farming enterprise in a green urban environment,” says Bales.

The production facility will utilize a recirculating aquaculture system treats the water with clarifiers, filters or trays of edible plants, and then the fish reuse it.  According to Todd and Bayles, this system produces many more fish that those grown in rural ponds. 

“It's all about growing good protein, free of environmental contaminants, in a recirculating system which doesn't pollute,” says Todd.

Bales was raised in Milwaukee, attended Bay View High School and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) with a degree in botany.  He served with the U.S. Navy as a flight instructor and carrier pilot in the Mediterranean Sea. During the ‘90s, he was appointed Commissioner for the Housing Authority in Milwaukee.  He recently sold his coffee plantation and trout farm in Costa Rica, and now wants to promote fish farming to the people of Milwaukee.

Todd received an MBA from UWM School of Business Administration and a BA in Latin & Greek Classic Studies at Northwestern Lutheran College. In 1975, Leon was elected to the MPS Board of School Directors, held a city-wide seat and served until 1981. He was a candidate for state superintendent in 1977 and was re-elected to a MPS district seat in 1994 and again in 1995.

The Urban Aquaculture Center is Todd’s next venue for expressing his vision for education and employment development. “This is a new paradigm in thinking ‘outside of the bun’ to replace the manufacturing jobs lost over the last three decades in Milwaukee,” he says.

The UAC concept is a national prototype and, if created, would give Milwaukee the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of urban aquaculture. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations recently stated: “Aquaculture, probably the fastest growing food producing sector, now accounts for almost 50 percent of the world’s food fish and is perceived as having the greatest potential to meet the growing demand for aquatic food.”

“Many local organizations are working tirelessly to bring the local food movement into the city with new urban ideas, encouraging future generations to get back to the land and grow and eat close to home, rather than importing from places far off,” says Bales.  “The Urban Aquaculture Center is hoping to bring Milwaukee into the 21st century in terms of fish production and to provide an innovative solution to several environmental problems involved with fish.”

The UAC partners with Growing Power, the Great Lakes WATER Institute and other public and private organizations. For more information about the UAC, please visit their Web site.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.