Auburn leads in aquaculture

By: Laura Vaughn – The Auburn Plainsman

     The aquaculture industry is the fastest growing form of food production in the world, and almost half of the fish eaten by humans is produced by the aquaculture industry, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 
     One of the largest components of the aquaculture industry is farm-raised catfish, which account for 572 million pounds and $421 million of the industry annually, according to The Catfish Institute.
     The catfish industry plays an important role in the economy of the Southeast, but it is facing enormous competition from overseas. The U.S. is ranked 10th in total aquaculture production and has a $9 billion seafood trade deficit, according to the NOAA.
     Rex Dunham, an Auburn University fisheries professor and alumni, is trying to change that. 
     Dunham’s research in the area of hybridization of catfish has the potential to dramatically improve the catfish aquaculture industry.
     “The hybrid catfish, which has been Dunham’s signature area of work, has the potential to improve production efficiency to the point where U.S. farmers can continue to compete in today’s marketplace,” said Craig Tucker, director of the National Warmwater Aquaculture Center and USDA Southern Regional Aquaculture Center. “He has been directly or indirectly responsible for most of the technologies now used to produce this fish.”
     The hybrids have several benefits including better growth, disease resistance and tolerance of poor water quality.
     “It is very gratifying that we finally reached this point,” Dunham said. “With the tough economic times globally, this can greatly impact the catfish industry. The industry now has the technology to make hybrids.”
     Dunham’s research lives up to the mission statement of Auburn University, which states that “research is essential to the mission of a land-grant university. The primary focus of this research will be directed to the solution of problems and the development of knowledge and technology important to the state and nation and to the quality of life of Alabama citizens.”
     “The goal is to serve the entire catfish farming industry and local communities,” Dunham said. “In addition to helping the farms in rural west Alabama, research helps the processing plants, which employ a lot of people, and there is an indirect impact on the local businesses. These include tractor parts suppliers, restaurants, any type of local shop. Hopefully, the impact of that research helps make that way of life sustainable.”
     Dunham recently won Auburn’s Creative Research and Scholarship Award and has been awarded $14 million for research through 77 federal, state and university grants during his time at Auburn.
     “Being a part of the College of Agriculture is such an enlightening experience,” said Emily Eason, a sophomore in animal sciences. “We get to learn from the best of the best in our field, and it’s so encouraging to see our professors out there doing the research and making a difference.”
     Auburn University became the first land-grant university in the South when it was converted in 1872 under the Morril Act. Auburn remains one of three land-grant universities in the state.

Water Conservation Presentation

     The public is cordially invited to attend a presentation, Alternative sources of water… A better approach by Scott Kubiszyn, founder of Nature’s Tap, on Thursday, February 19 in the Comer Hall auditorium (2nd floor) on the AU campus. The event is sponsored by Save Our Saugahatchee (S.O.S) and the Saugahatchee Watershed Management Plan (SWaMP, a watershed project funded by ADEM and coordinated from the AU Fisheries Department). Refreshments will be served at 6:00 PM and the presentation will begin at 6:30 PM.
     Mr. Kubiszyn will discuss water conservation, how citizens can be part of the solution,
and how Nature’s Tap can assist them. While many parts of the country and the world have an approaching water crisis, we have shunned centuries-old and natural practices of collecting water and using it at the source. In the process we are damaging our watersheds, stealing from our water tables, consuming tremendous amounts of energy, and using unnecessary resources. Come hear about practical solutions clomid tablets and new technologies that are emerging to reuse greywater and capture rainwater and stormwater as alternative sources of water for our non-potable needs. Find out how a local school is planning a rainwater harvesting system that will act as a community demonstration site, while reducing the school’s dependence on potable water, and reducing runoff and nonpoint source pollution into the creek that runs right behind the school through a partnership involving the school, Nature’s Tap and SWaMP. For more information, please contact Eric Reutebuch (334-844-1163, reeutem@auburn.edu) or Wendy Seesock (seesowc@auburn.edu ).

Liu recognized for key role in aquaculture genome project

     The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service has recognized John prednisone vs hydrocodone Liu for his contributions to and participation in the National Animal Genome Research Program and his dedicated service as coordinator of the program’s Aquaculture Genome Committee. Liu, who has served as associate dean of research for the College of Agriculture and assistant director of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station since January 2008, is an Alumni Professor in the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures, director of Auburn’s Aquatic Genomics Unit and one of the world’s premier fish geneticists, known globally as leader of the effort to map the genome, or complete genetic makeup, of catfish. When the Aquaculture Genome Project became an official part of the National Animal Genome Project in 2003, Liu was appointed as the project’s first coordinator and in 2008 was reappointed to a second five-year term. Prior to 2003, he had served for five years as coordinator of a regional catfish genome project.

Dr. Dunham helps local communities sustain their way of life

By: Charles Martin - Wire Eagle

     Auburn University fisheries professor Rex Dunham, true to his school’s land-grant mission, conducts research with the goal of helping catfish farmers and local communities sustain their way of life.

“The goal is to serve the entire catfish farming industry and local communities,” said Dunham, who recently won Auburn’s Creative Research and Scholarship Award. “In addition to helping the farms in rural west Alabama, research helps the processing plants, which employ a lot of people, and there is an indirect impact on the local businesses. These include tractor parts suppliers, restaurants, any type of local shop. Hopefully, the impact of that research helps make that way of life sustainable.”

A primary aspect of Dunham’s career has been the hybridization of channel and blue catfish, considered a possible savior of the U.S. catfish aquaculture industry. Farm-raised catfish is the largest aquaculture industry in the country and has been a significant part of the economy of the Southeast for 30 years. But this industry faces high feed prices and marketing pressure from imported fish.

“The hybrid catfish, which has been Dr. Dunham’s signature area of work, has the potential to improve production efficiency to the point where U.S. farmers can continue to compete in today’s marketplace,” said Craig Tucker, director of the National Warmwater Aquaculture Center and USDA Southern Regional Aquaculture Center, in nominating Dunham for the Auburn research award. “He has been directly or indirectly responsible for most of the technologies now used to produce this fish.”

Dunham says it is now feasible to produce commercial quantities of hybrids, which have better growth, survival, disease resistance, feed conversion and tolerance of poor water quality – all leading to an improved harvest. His research is being applied to the catfish industry though Auburn’s Office of Technology Transfer, which is working with the company, Aetos, to provide hybrid fingerlings to catfish farmers.

“It is very gratifying that we finally reached this point,” he said. “With the tough economic times globally, this can greatly impact the catfish industry. The industry now has the technology to make hybrids.”

Dunham is recognized as a world leader in his field and has been awarded $14 million for research through 77 federal, state and university grants during his time at Auburn. He came to Auburn in 1978 to work on his master’s degree, which he earned in 1979 followed by Ph.D. in 1981. He has published 223 scientific articles, chapters and proceedings papers.

He says a goal-oriented approach to research is vital to obtaining results that will impact specific fields and industries. “Some scientists change directions to follow the research money,” Dunham said. “If a goal or objective is worthwhile, then you should stay the course, even if it is not easily fundable.”

Dunham’s major research achievements include:

* First researcher to demonstrate that selection works for the genetic improvement of channel catfish;

* First release of genetically improved fish in the United States. In total, responsible for four releases of genetically improved catfish;

* His research has led to the formation of the first four commercial genetics and breeding companies in the catfish industry; and

* First to produce a transgenic fish in the United States, and the fourth worldwide.

     “He has a history of successful collaboration with university and government scientists, as well as farmers and technicians in the private sector,” Tucker said. “He gives freely of his time to work with other scientists, an important contribution that does not show up on his resume.”

Dunham sees the next major impact coming from transgenic sterilization, which involves the development of a genetic system that puts catfish reproduction control in the hands of the laboratory culturist.

“We would genetically turn on or off a fish’s ability to reproduce,” Dunham said. “This would virtually eliminate all environmental impact that might occur if farm or laboratory fish were accidentally released into waterways. They would not reproduce in a natural environment, so they would not threaten native fish.”

Dunham believes integrated solutions are needed to make advances in genetic improvement and that genetic research is a long-term, never-ending puzzle that has great rewards along the way. The future of catfish research, he says, includes learning more about traditional selective breeding, building a better hybrid through both selection and transgenics, learning how to use genome data to make practical applications, and using cryogenics to preserve species.

“In building a house, you use more than one tool,” he said. “The same is true for research. You use more than one tool to reach your objective.”

Local Organization Against Fish Farming

By: Jene’ Young – WKRG.com News
     Commercial fishermen are not happy about a vote to allow fish farming — or aquaculture — in the Gulf. Aquaculture is like agriculture — but instead of animals on farm land — it deals with animals under water.
If the idea gets final approval — the Gulf of Mexico would be the first area in the United States where fish farming is legal.
     B.G. Thompson, a consultant with the Organized Seafood Association of Alabama describes what a fish farm would look like. “This would be conceivably huge nets in the Gulf offshore. And the fish would be grown in those nets to a maturity. Fed, and then pulled out to be sold on the market.”
     Ladon Swann with Auburn University’s Shellfish Lab says there is a big need for aquaculture.
“Fish farming or aquaculture is probably one of the most effecient ways in producing animal protein. As long as Americans continue to eat animal protein, whether it be chicken, beef, pork, or fish, fish farming is one of the more effective ways to do that.”
     Some say there are too many risks involved and that more research needs to be done.
The Organized Seafood Association says commercial fishing is not the only concern. Environmental impacts and cost efficiency are also big questions that haven’t been answered.
     Thompson adds there are unknown risks involved in offshore fish farms. “When you have high density of any animals be it farm animals, marine animals, the experience is that you create diseases. These diseases could be passed on to the native, wild fish. You’re polluting the waters.”
     Everyone involved agrees there is a real problem with demand growing, and the supply, in this case fish, not there to meet it.
     I spoke with Harlon Pearce with the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. He voted to allow offshore fish farming. Harlon says he thinks it’s time for the Gulf Coast to compete in the global economy and doesn’t think these fish farms will harm the environment.
He says it will take several months for the Department of Commerce to vote on this plan.

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