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November 02, 2011   Email to Friend 

New Auburn University Fisheries Facilities To Bring Competitive Edge To U.S. Catfish Industry
Jillian Clair

Auburn Fisheries and Allied Aquaculture Extension Specialist Jesse Chappell, left, explains the fiberglass tanks in the market section of Auburn's new Center for Aquatic Resource Management to Alabama Farmers Federation Catfish Division Director Mitt Walker and Catfish Farmers of America President Butch Wilson at the ribbon-cutting ceremony Sept. 9. The center is a $9 million addition to the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquaculture's E.W. Shell Fisheries Research Center.
Auburn University's new Center for Aquatic Resource Management is expected to sharpen the competitive edge of Alabama catfish producers who have faced increased competition from foreign imports and higher input costs.

The $9 million addition to the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquaculture's E.W. Shell Fisheries Research Center officially opened Sept. 9 during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

"This is going to bring some of the technology to the fish farm here at Auburn that it has been lacking," said Butch Wilson, president of Catfish Farmers of America and Dallas County catfish producer. "The catfish industry right now is where the poultry industry was in the '50s and '60s. We need to accelerate the improvement process, and I think this will help."

Jesse Chappell, Auburn fisheries and allied aquaculture Extension specialist, said the department plans to do just that. "We're trying to emulate some of the pathways the poultry industry forged," Chappell said. "We want to develop breeds of fish that do well in more confined, controlled production systems."

Chappell said the research from the new laboratories will give domestic catfish producers the edge they need to succeed in the global seafood marketplace.

"Unlike 30 years ago when the industry began, our growers are faced with very skilled international competitors. Before, we were ill-equipped to compete internationally," Chappell said. "Now, with the development of this facility, we will be able to meet that competition head on--and win."

Mitt Walker, director of the Alabama Farmers Federation's Catfish Division, was present at the ceremony and said catfish producers across the state are anticipating the research and development the facilities will bring to the industry.

"The new facility will put researchers at Auburn University in a much better position to tackle industry challenges and transfer this information to the growers," Walker said. "Alabama catfish farmers will definitely benefit from the advances in research made possible by capabilities of this new building."

The center consists of a 20,000-square-foot administrative building and a 17,000-square-foot laboratory building that offers leading-edge aquatic research facilities, enhanced classroom environments and improved community education opportunities.

The new research building houses fish tanks and several state-of-the art labs, including several climate-controlled wet labs that will allow for year-round research.

The administrative building includes office space, a teaching lab, a hatchery, a meeting room that will be available to campus and civic groups, classrooms, a 6,354-square-foot fish holding area and a market for sales to the public.

More than producers will benefit from Auburn's research. Chappell said with the new facilities, the department can develop tastier catfish.

"What we're starting to embark on nowadays is an approach we call pond-to-plate," Chappell said. "We have to produce what consumers want. This building and the scientists here--their efforts will be to produce fish to meet the demands and standards of consumers."



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