Auburn Fisheries Will Host Expo, Field Day Sept. 20

Aubie holding a fishing netThe Auburn University School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences will host an expo and field day Saturday, Sept. 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the E.W. Shell Fisheries Research Center on North College Street in Auburn.

Free and open to the public, the event will feature tours of facilities and ponds at the north Auburn center and will also have food vendors with samples, extended fish market hours, child-friendly fun, live music and presentations by faculty.

Fisheries Expo Field Day pdf“The goal of the event is to bring more awareness to our research and our resources,” said Eric Peatman, an associate professor in the school and organizer of the event. “Our program is one of the best in the world, and we want to take advantage of a football-free Saturday to share what we do with the community and the Auburn family.”

map to EW Shell Fisheries Station

The Auburn Tigers will play Kansas State in Kansas the Thursday night preceding the expo and field day.

The Auburn University School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences has its roots in the inland fisheries and aquaculture research of Homer S. Swingle. The first formal courses in the disciplines were offered at Auburn in 1946.

For more information on the expo and field day, contact Peatman at 334-734-4611 or peatmer@auburn.edu.

2013 Catfish Report Reveals Challenges, Bright Spots for US Farmers

Terry Hanson (left), Auburn University, and Butch Wilson, Alabama catfish farmer.

Terry Hanson (left), Auburn University, and Butch Wilson, Alabama catfish farmer.

The recently released 2013 U.S. Catfish Database compiled by Auburn University aquacultural economist Terry Hanson paints a grim portrait of the U.S. farm-raised catfish industry overall, but a few bright spots, particularly for Alabama producers, are sprinkled throughout the report.

Since peaking in 2003, the U.S. catfish industry has been shrinking. American consumer preference for the fish declined from sixth among the top 10 fish and seafood products in 2009 to ninth in 2012. The acreage devoted to catfish farming in the U.S. continued its steady decline in 2013 and is now down 62 percent, or 121,135 acres, from its peak in 2002. Meanwhile, imports of frozen catfish fillets increased by 44 million pounds in 2013, to 281 million pounds, accounting for 78 percent of all sales of frozen catfish fillets in the U.S. Imports in 2013 were nearly 10 times what they were just eight years ago, while the number of pounds of U.S. catfish processed is down nearly 50 percent from that same year.

“Though the majority of the news for the U.S. catfish industry is bleak, 2013 did bring slight increases in both pounds processed, up 11 percent from 2012, and total producer income, also up 11 percent over the previous year,” said Hanson. “We are encouraged by these signs that the industry may be stabilizing.”

And, the news for Alabama’s catfish farmers is slightly better than for those in other states. Though the acreage devoted to catfish farming in the state has decreased steadily since 2004, Alabama has seen the lowest rate of decrease of the top catfish-producing states. In addition, while feed purchases have dropped dramatically in other states, signaling a sharper decline in the industry, Alabama’s feed purchases have remained relatively stable.

Butch Wilson, an Alabama catfish farmer and past president of the Catfish Farmers of America, says the trends in the industry are forcing farmers to innovate and diversify in order to remain competitive in a global marketplace.

“I’ve lived every one of these trends on my farm,” said Wilson, who in recent years has diversified operations and updated technologies on his Dallas County farm. He now raises tilapia in addition to catfish and has moved portions of his operation indoors to keep up with the industry’s latest technological advances.

Looking to the future, Hanson says some trends will likely continue, while others may see a sharp change. While the market share of imported fish and seafood will continue to rise, overall consumption of seafood products will keep to its downward trend unless efforts are made to educate Americans about the nutritional benefit of eating more fish. The increase in feed prices over the past few years has led to a lower in-pond catfish inventory in the U.S., which will result in a supply shortage in 2014. As of February, processors were paying much higher prices per pound for U.S.-raised catfish than just a year earlier, a positive trend Hanson hopes will continue at the production, processing and retail levels.

“If producers are able to invest these profits to improve infrastructure, adopt new technologies and reduce production costs, then U.S. farm-raised catfish will compete favorably with inexpensive imported products,” Hanson said.

Hanson, associate professor and Extension specialist in the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences, has provided the annual catfish database for the last 15 years.  Much of the information in the report is a historical compilation of data provided by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture. Dave Sites of Mississippi State University is co-author of the 2013 report, which can be downloaded at http://aurora.auburn.edu/repo/bitstream/handle/11200/45669/1%202013-catfish-database%20all%20sections%20combined.pdf?sequence=1.

For more information, contact Hanson at (334) 844-9207 or trh0008@auburn.edu.

Auburn Fisheries Pioneer Explains Why Alabama Agriculture Can’t Catch Up

shell

Jamie Creamer wrote about Dr. Wayne Shell in the latest issue of Ag Illustrated.

“Eddie Wayne Shell has a suggestion for folks who buy his new book.

“It makes a mighty good doorstop,” he says. “You sure can’t do much else with it.”

At first glance, you might be tempted to agree. The 880-page volume is just shy of 2 inches thick, weighs in at 5.2 pounds and, from cover to cover, is nothing but text. Not the first picture, table or illustration to be found, page after 8 ½- by-11-inch page.

The title—“Evolution of the Alabama Agroecosystem: Always Keeping Up but Never Catching Up”—might be off-putting, too. 

But don’t let those details scare you away, because the exhaustive narrative that Shell, an Auburn University professor emeritus in fisheries, has produced is an absorbing, surprisingly readable account of how geological, biological, cultural, economic and political characteristics over the past 350 million years have shaped the state’s agricultural ecosystem. Most of the book’s focus, however, is on changes that have taken place in the past two centuries …”

Read the rest of the article here

Former Fisheries Faculty Practices What He Preached Raising Inland Shrimp

David Teichert-Coddington working his shrimp farm.

David Teichert-Coddington working his shrimp farm.

Jamie Creamer featured former faculty member, David Teichert-Coddington in the spring issue of Ag Illustrated.

“About this time every year, David Teichert-Coddington packs his bag, loads his trailer and hits the road, bound for the Florida Keys.

If he were going for a few weeks of R & R, that would be one thing. But this is business, as will be evidenced four days and 1,850 miles later when a road-weary Teichert-Coddington returns to his west-central Alabama home, hauling a load of precious—and totally legal—cargo: 9 million pathogen-free, hatchery-grown baby shrimp. Shrimplets, if you will, each about the size of a gnat.

And thus begins another growing season at Greene Prairie Shrimp, a fitting name for a farming operation that’s in Greene County on 250 acres of prairie soil and for which the sole product is Pacific white shrimp …”

Read the rest of the article here.

Fisheries’ Wilson Wins Honor as Undergrad Research Mentor

Man standing in a pond by buckets

In the seven years he has been on the faculty in Auburn University’s School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences, associate professor Alan Wilson has introduced more than 70 undergraduate students from Auburn and beyond to the fascinating world of scientific research.

These students have been more than passive observers in Wilson’s warm-water aquatic ecology laboratory; they have been actively involved in the research process, as is evidenced by their scholarly output, which includes co-authoring with Wilson 10 journal publications and 36 conference presentations.

“I am passionate about creating meaningful research opportunities for undergrads,” said Wilson, who began mentoring undergraduates in research as a graduate student at Michigan State University in 1998. “I’m always thrilled to share my love of science with students and engage them in the scientific method.”

For his outstanding record as a mentor, Wilson has been named winner of the 2014-15 Provost’s Award for Excellence in Fostering Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship at Auburn and will be recognized formally during the university’s faculty awards ceremony this fall.

“This award is in recognition of your sustained efforts to promote excellence in undergraduate scholarship through research,” Auburn Provost Timothy Boosinger said in a letter notifying Wilson of his selection.

In addition to Auburn students from across the campus, Wilson’s young scientists have included 34 undergraduates from other universities across the state and region who, from 2011 through 2013, spent summers in Auburn working with Wilson through his National Science Foundation–funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates program in aquatic ecology.

“These students were here strictly for the opportunity to do research, because that isn’t an option for them at their home universities,” Wilson said. “I trained them in a variety of skills, such as experimental design, scientific ethics and the how-tos of developing presentations.”

Wilson said training the undergraduate researchers “to do good science” is his primary goal.

“But after that, I want to get them interested in and excited about science,” he said. “I want them to see that science is fun.”

The provost’s mentoring award was established in 2010 to highlight a faculty member’s significant commitment to undergraduate scholarship and creative work outside the classroom.

 

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