Training in Arley yields four new AWW trainers

Bill Deutsch and Sergio Ruiz-Cordova traveled to Arley, Alabama to train a group of Alabama Water Watch-certified volunteer monitors to become AWW trainers Saturday, September 12th. The AWW Training of Trainers Workshop was held at the Meek High School in Arley. The AWW Program has been training citizens throughout the state to test the water quality of their local streams, rivers, lakes, bays and bayous since 1993. Bill quickly realized that the exponential growth in volunteer monitors could not be sustained with just a couple of AWW trainers, and developed the Training of Trainer Workshop in 1995. Currently, the AWW Program has about 40 trainers statewide, and AWW-certified volunteer trainers conducted about 2/3rds of trainings within the past year. Since 1993, over 5,000 Alabamian have been certified as AWW water monitors.

Trainees, Larry Barkey (on left) and James Mason (in back) receive training materials from Bill Deutsch

The ranks of AWW trainers gained four new recruits at the Arley training, and two veteran trainers went through the Trainer Refresher Workshop. The workshop participants came from the Black Warrior, Coosa and Tennessee River basins, and represented five AWW monitor groups (listed below). New trainees included: 

  • John Kulbitkas representing Smith Lake Civic Association
  • Larry Barkey representing Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy
  • James Mason representing Huntsville Senior Environment Corps
  • Loretta Weninegar representing Columbia High School, Huntsville, AL

Trainers that got refreshed included:

  • Ray O’Donnell representing RSVP/Marshall County
  • Isabella Trussell representing Logan Martin Lake Protection Association

Bill opened the workshop with an overview of AWW Program trends. He then reviewed the Executive Summary of the 2008 AWW Annual Report, and lead a discussion “Thinking about AWW in the Big Picture”, touching on comparative advantages of AWW monitoring, maintaining quality citizen water data, interpretation of the citizen data, better use of the data, and AWW success stories and local initiatives.

Other topics of discussion included volunteer monitor group dynamics, levels of AWW certification, role of the Alabama Water Watch Association, what is involved in becoming a trainer, planning an AWW workshop, preparing for a workshop, conducting a workshop, and following up after a workshop.

Special thanks to Ms. Susette Rohde, the Meek High School science teacher who assisted with  training logistics and provided delicious home-made treats for the participants! To locate an AWW trainer near you and request a training workshop, go to the AWW website at and click on the Monitor Resources menu, or call the AWW toll-free number at (888) 844-4785. And the next time that you’re out cruising on a beautiful lake, paddling down a picturesque stream, or fishing in a productive bayou, remember to shout out a big “Thank You!” to the selfless volunteer trainers – like John, Larry, James Loretta, Ray and Isabella, and

the volunteer monitors who give hundreds of hours of their time to watch over and protect the rich aquatic resources of our State.

World's Aquaculture Economics Endanger State Fish Farmer

By: Dana Beyer – The Gasden Times

Help came Tuesday to Alabama catfish farmers who have had to pay more to feed their fish, making it even harder for them to compete with foreign fish imports.

State Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks said 141 aquaculture farmers including Hale County farmer Bill Kyser got a total of $9 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $50 million national stimulus to offset the cost of fish food.

“Numerous aquaculture producers suffered from financial hardships during 2008 due to increased feed prices,” Sparks said.

“These funds will provide assistance to producers with the aquaculture industry.”

Kyser got about $100,000 to offset last year’s $2 million feed bill that has been increasing because of events mostly out of his and other farmers’ control.

He said the $100,000 will help defray expenses at his family farm that employs 14 people.
“Feed is close to 50 percent of our costs,” Kyser said.

Mitt Walker, director of the catfish division of the Alabama Farmers Federation, said prices of soybean and corn, main ingredients in fish food, are up dramatically for a growing and important Alabama industry.

“The five-year average cost of feed has been around $230 per ton, and last year we saw the average price up closer to $400,” Walker said. “That has been a significant burden on those guys.”

Jesse A. Chappel is

an assistant professor and extension specialist in the Auburn University aquaculture department. He said several factors affect the price of commercial fish food.

“Typically, feed prices are up and have been up for the last year or more because feed commodities — corn, soybean meal or wheat — are up substantially.”

Commodity grain trading, higher standards of living in Asian countries that are demanding more meat that are raised on grain and diversion of corn into the fuel stream all contribute to increased prices.

That’s good for grain producers but bad for domestic farmers who also compete with much lower Asian wages and almost nonexistent food quality standards.

“We have to get more efficient and get better at what we do to protect ourselves,” Chappel said.

“Of course, fish and shellfish and aquaculture is a new business on the scene, and it’s a good, environmentally friendly business, but nonetheless, we’re vulnerable in the world market.”

Catfish sales peaked at $5 billion nationally in 2000, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and foreign “dumping” of cheaper fish has been blamed for the decline of domestic sales to $4.1 billion last year.

Alabama catfish sales were nearly $93 million last year, down from a high of $101 million in 2004.

About 2,700 Alabamians work in the catfish industry, according to the Alabama Farmers Federation, and fish farming that also includes aquaculture production had a $500 million impact in Alabama in 2005.

Alabama is second to Mississippi in catfish production. And Hale County is the No. 1 producer among six or seven west Alabama Black Belt counties where catfish is an important part of the local economy.

Catfish farmers say another reason Asian fish are cheaper is they are not raised under strict environmental and food purity laws as in the U.S.

Walker said Alabama’s new state-of-origin placards in restaurants will inform customers that domestically grown fish is safe to eat.

Kyser said Asian catfish is about $1 per pound less than domestic catfish primarily because of lower wages and government subsidies.

Domestic producers have to nearly match the import price or they can’t compete.

“We’re kind of exposed here, there’s no protective trade structure to speak of,” Auburn’s Chappel said.

AWWareness Summer 2009 Newsletter

Find out what’s been going on over the summer in the

Alabama Water Watch Program by reading the:

        AWWareness Summer 2009 Newsletter

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