The 40-acre Aquacultural Research and Teaching Facility near College Station is operated by the department of wildlife and fisheries sciences for AgriLife Research, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Dr Delbert Gatlin, associate department head for the department of wildlife and fisheries sciences, said the facility is dedicated to research and teaching that promotes sound management and practices in warm-water aquaculture and aquatic ecology.
The facility includes laboratories featuring flow-through and recirculating tank systems equipped with modern research equipment for work in nutrition, bioenergetics, environmental physiology and developmental biology of finfish and shellfish.
“The work at the facility is as varied as the world of aquaculture,” Dr Gatlin said.
Goals of the facility are:
- To improve production efficiency of various aquatic species through advances in fish genetics, nutrition and feeding, diet development, as well as health management.
- To support the development of wholesome and affordable seafoods through scientific discovery, novel technologies and new processes related to aquaculture.
“We are extremely proud of the many accomplishments stemming from work done at the facility,” Dr Gatlin said. “Globally, aquaculture provides over half the fish and shellfish consumed worldwide and production is growing by about 10 percent per year. In Texas, the industry contributes approximately $360 million annually to the state’s economy.”
To stay abreast of this fast-growing industry, AgriLife Research scientists in the department continually conduct research at the facility to support the economic and environmental sustainability of aquaculture not only in Texas, but also nationally, he said.
“Aquaculture research, teaching and AgriLife Extension activities have all been continuously conducted within the department and at the facility over the past 40 years,” Dr Gatlin said. “During that time, faculty, former students and staff have made numerous contributions in advancing the scientific and technological bases of aquaculture for seafood production and fish stock enhancement. Many have also held leadership roles in various state, national and international aquaculture organizations.”
Dr Gatlin said recent activities include various research projects funded by $2.5 million in grants and contracts for nutrition and feeding research of species including red drum, hybrid striped bass and channel catfish.
Research funded by this money has led to refinements in diet formulations and feeding practices that have resulted in considerable economic benefits to producers through reduced production costs, more efficient diet utilization, less negative environmental consequences and improvement of the nutritional value of the resulting fish products, he said.
“The Marine Stock Enhancement Program operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department also has directly benefitted from various genetics, nutrition and physiology research projects conducted at the facility,” Dr Gatlin said. “This program introduces hatchery-produced red drum and spotted sea trout into Texas bays to support recreational fisheries having a $1.8 billion impact annually on the Texas economy.”
Dr Gatlin said the Aquacultural Research and Teaching Facility also has ongoing collaborations with the Inland Fisheries Division of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in support of the Neighborhood Fishing Program. That program involves the cultivation and stocking of urban ponds with channel catfish to provide angling opportunities for the public in major urban areas.
When the Aquacultural Research and Teaching Facility was first established in 1973, it consisted of an office/laboratory and 24 earthen ponds less than a quarter-acre each in size. Another building was added in 1980 to accommodate fish culture systems for research purposes. The facility today has two enclosed buildings with more than 200 culture systems consisting of glass aquaria and fiberglass tanks.
The facility’s name was changed in the late 1980s to better reflect not only its research but also it’s teaching function, Dr Gatlin said. The facility today supports the teaching of laboratory portions of several aquatic courses within the department as well as AgriLife Extension educational programs.
The pond facility was again renovated in 1993 and expanded to 36 one-tenth acre ponds, each with concrete harvest basins. The most recent renovation completed in 2012 saw the ponds re-shaped and re-sloped with the installment of rubber liners to minimize soil erosion and maximize water retention. The renovation was made possible by contributions from AgriLife Research and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
To learn more about the facility, go to: http://wfsc.tamu.edu/facilities/aquacultural-research-teaching-facility/ and click on the facilities tab.