OSU aquaculture program receives $13.7 million


CORVALLIS - A $13.7 million federal grant will allow a global aquaculture program based at Oregon State University to continue into the 21st century.

The five-year grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development will fund the Pond Dynamics-Aquaculture Collaborative Research Support Program to 2001, said Hillary Egna, program director.

The program began in 1982 as a global venture to aid aquaculture, or "pond farming," in developing countries. Much of the research is centered in raising fish or shrimp to bolster food supplies in countries including the Philippines, Thailand, Honduras, Egypt and Rwanda.

Raising bigger fish faster is one goal, said Martin Fitzpatrick, OSU assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife. "The main technique to increase the size of the fish now is to feed the fish steroids over three to four weeks," he said.

Researchers in the Collaborative Research Support Program are working to cut steroid conditioning to several hours to abate human health and environmental risks.

Fitzpatrick is working with tilapia, a tropical fish that grows to about a foot in length and weighs under two pounds.

Other facets of the program include sociology, agricultural economics, bioresource engineering, water quality and soil science. Program efforts help farmers improve incomes and feed more people without ruining resources.

Lessons learned overseas can often be imported to the United States to aid local aquaculture efforts. In addition, aiding less developed countries can open new markets for domestic producers, researchers say.

While OSU has technical, administrative and fiscal responsibility for carrying out the grant provisions, the aquaculture program is a joint effort of more than 100 professional and support personnel from U.S. universities.

Universities include: Auburn University; the University of California at Davis; University of Oklahoma; University of Delaware; Southern Illinois University; University of Texas; University of Michigan; University of Hawaii; University of Arizona; University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff; as well as OSU.

The program also benefits from the efforts of more than 75 scientists, technicians and graduate students in host countries.