Commercially grown catfish in North America or Africa face similar challenges, a fact that sent one Mississippi State University veterinarian on a training mission to Nigeria in June.

Dr. Skip Jack, a professor of pathobiology and population medicine at MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, spent almost three weeks teaching Nigerian catfish farmers, veterinarians and students about health issues related to their fish. He was part of the Farmer to Farmer project, teaching under the oversight of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“They don’t have the same catfish we raise, but fish, no matter what species, have similar bacterial and viral problems,” Jack said. “Nigerian catfish producers deal with the same issues of water quality and fish response to infectious diseases, even though their diseases are somewhat different from ours.”

Mississippi and U.S. farm-raised catfish are channel catfish, or Ictalurids. Those raised in Nigeria are called African or walking catfish and are the Clarius species.

Jack said Nigerian catfish producers manage their catfish differently from their counterparts in Mississippi.

“Nigeria is just above the equator, and their fish are much more low-oxygen tolerant than ours are,” Jack said. “They don’t have to provide the aeration that our ponds require at times.”

Jack spent two weeks teaching week-long sessions to aquaculture professionals with the Fisheries Society of Nigeria, or FISON. He spent one week in Lagos and one week in Abuja, the Nigerian capital. He spent the final four days in Ibadan, working with Christian Veterinarians Nigeria, the University of Ibadan Veterinary School and the Federal College of Animal Health and Production Technology.

“I team-taught with a Nigerian veterinarian who does fish work, and I talked with several faculty members at the schools who want to come here, work at our clinic and learn some of the things we do,” Jack said. “We also talked about putting together a book on fish health for Nigeria.”

Dr. Charity Oche, executive secretary of FISON, said growth of their industry depends on producers receiving training from aquaculture experts. She said Jack’s expertise in this field was several years ahead of what was available in Nigeria and very useful.

“He was attentive and eager to answer all questions, shedding more light using America’s experience with channel catfish,” Oche said. “We are planning a second visit for Skip to teach the same workshop because we believe the number of professionals who attended is not representative of the number of people who can benefit from this training.”