The Hybrid Catfish Initiative

The catfish industry includes both large and small family farms, and is critical for the economic viability of many communities in Alabama and the South. Large-scale commercial adoption of the hybrid between female channel catfish and male blue catfish could make catfish farming more competitive and sustainable. But hybrid fingerlings are not widely available for stocking into ponds, so at present, this industry is almost entirely based on the culture of channel catfish. Use of hybrids is growing, but greater adoption is needed to keep Alabama catfish farming competitive domestically and with foreign imports.

clip_image002_002Develop technology to improve egg production and hatching rate of fertilized eggs to allow widespread commercial production of the channel catfish X blue catfish hybrid, and to further improve the genetics and performance of farmed catfish.

catfishspawns_000Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures researchers are developing genetic lines of channel catfish and blue catfish that more readily mate (hybridize) with each other. Scientists are evaluating hormone treatments that induce females to release eggs to maximize production of hybrid eggs and the hatching rate of fertilized eggs, and they are developing technology to more efficiently utilize the sperm from donor males to fertilize the eggs. To ensure the best quality of eggs and sperm, research is also being conducted on broodstock nutrition to optimize maturation diets for the development of eggs and fry production. This work is being coupled with research on transgenic sterilization for the future development of more disease resistant hybrids with improved flesh quality.

clip_image002_003In 2005 Alabama catfish producers earned over 98 million dollars. When hybrid egg-fingerling production is commercially feasible, the catfish hybrid will replace channel catfish as the major aquaculture fish for the United States, and Alabama’s catfish industry will become more profitable. This hybrid will have revolutionary impacts on the entire catfish industry, increasing yearly harvest and profitability for catfish farmers.

Ronald P. Phelps
TES Retiree
203 Swingle Hall
Auburn Univ, AL 36849