U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



North American Journal of Aquaculture 83:127–137, 2021

DOI: 10.1002/naaq.10170


U.S. government work


Avian predation in catfish aquaculture has been a persistent issue throughout the history of the industry, and as production has expanded predation from piscivorous birds has intensified. Catfish ponds in the Mississippi River delta (in the Mississippi migratory flyway) provide a constant and readily accessible supply of forage for birds. Intensive foraging by fish-eating birds has led to a specific regulatory policy and numerous on-farm and regional management efforts. However, in 2016, legal challenges lead to recision of some federal policies and uncertainty as to allowable management, resulting in limitations on bird depredation. Estimating the extent of fish losses to avian predators is difficult, as loss estimates from farms are often confounded with disease- and management-related mortalities. This study details the reported losses to birds that were observed in commercial-scale catfish ponds at the Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture Center, Stoneville, Mississippi, during periods of limited bird management. The observed fish losses attributed to birds ranged from 33% to 95% loss in survival and potential yield losses of 4,396 to 8,889 lb/acre, increasing production costs and decreasing net returns. Net economic losses when accounting for negative net returns and lost profits ranged from US$3,518 to $4,060/acre. Losses of this magnitude on commercial fish farms are economically detrimental, especially because catfish farms lack the compensatory economic relief programs that are available in other agriculture sectors. Roost dispersal activities that are organized by federal agencies and avoiding delays in issuing bird depredation permits are vital for mitigating this persistent and growing regulatory problem in the U.S. catfish industry.