Owners of retired catfish ponds and current catfish pond owners looking to reduce their pond acreage can benefit from a June 16 workshop that explores ways to develop former aquaculture ponds into natural resource enterprises.
Developing Catfish Ponds into Natural Resource Enterprises is being offered in Stoneville through the Mississippi State University Extension Service. It will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Capps Center at MSU’s Delta Research and Extension Center and at Indian Lakes Hunting Club in Bolivar County. The MSU Natural Resources Enterprises program is sponsoring this event, along with Delta Wildlife and several private, state and federal agencies.
Jimmy Avery, Extension aquaculture leader, said the value of catfish ponds has decreased as high feed prices and increased foreign competition have shrunk profit margins.
"If a catfish farmer can increase the overall value of his land holdings by diversifying their use, perhaps that farmer will be able to raise catfish on at least some portion of his land," Avery said. "For the last six years, this industry has fought through various means to keep ponds in production."
"This workshop does not signify that we are conceding that fight. Creating income from a source other than fish sales allows him to continue to farm," he said.
Jim Steeby, Extension aquaculture specialist, said the goal of the workshop is to teach landowners how to diversify their land use, create additional income and improve wildlife habitat on their property.
"About 15,000 acres of catfish ponds were retired in 2009, and we expect more ponds to be retired this year," Steeby said. "We are trying to work with owners on uses for these retired ponds. Many are eligible for the Conservation Reserve Program or the Wetlands Reserve Program, and this workshop will teach them about other options that may be available."
Landowners, bankers, realtors and others looking to improve habitat conditions or generate income from retired catfish ponds are encouraged to attend. There is no fee to attend, but registration is required by June 11 to ensure lunch and resource materials.
The day begins at 8 a.m. in Choctaw with a tour of the Indian Lakes Hunting Club. Participants will see existing catfish ponds that were modified for wildlife habitat conservation and management and are now used for recreational fishing, wildlife watching and birding.
Afternoon sessions will be held at the Capps Center. Topics include revenue potential from natural resource enterprises, liability and legal considerations, marketing and clientele preferences, wildlife habitat management, recreational fishing and business management.
The workshop is part of a series by the Natural Resource Enterprises Program at Mississippi State University. The program is a partnership between MSU’s Extension Service, MSU’s Forest and Wildlife Research Center, the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
MSU’s Extension Service, MAFES and the FWRC cooperatively created and implement the Natural Resource Enterprises Program to assist private landowners in developing alternative or supplemental methods of income on their land.
Directions, a registration form, and more information about the workshop are available online.