For more than 50 years, the Kansas Aquaculture Association has brought together private individuals, commercial businesses and state organizations with the common goal of promoting fisheries and other aquaculture enterprises.
On Jan. 27, the Kansas Aquaculture Association will hold its annual meeting at the Best Western Holiday Manor, 2211 E Kansas Ave, McPherson. The meeting is open to both current members and those interested in learning more about aquaculture operations in Kansas.
"It's a great meeting with lots of networking opportunities," said Kansas Aquaculture Association President Brian Serpan.
Kansas was one of the first states to have commercial catfish operations.
"We don't think of Kansas as a place for seafood, but the aquaculture history goes way back," Serpan said. "Other states still trade us, because they want Kansas genetics in their fish."
In the 1960s, fish farmers had to abide by regulations for selling a food product, but their fish were not protected by law. Anyone taking fish from a pond could be charged with trespassing, but not stealing, Serpan noted.
"At the time, fish were not considered livestock," Serpan said.
The founding of the Kansas Commercial Fish Growers Association in 1964, which was later renamed as the Kansas Aquaculture Association, gave fish farmers a united voice.
"They really paved the way for some awesome developments in Kansas," Serpan said.
While members of the organization still keep an eye on changes in regulations for fish farming, the Kansas Aquaculture Association's membership has grown to include state agents, hatchery biologists, teachers, fishery biologists and decorative pond installers.
"The biggest group who recently have helped sustain us are folks that are interested in aquaponics," Serpan said.
Aquaponics is a symbiotic system of growing fish and plants in water. The fish give off waste that feed the plants, which in turn clean the water in which the fish live.
"It's a system that just keeps cycling," Serpan said. "It's nice because it mimics natural systems."
Using aquaponics, farmers can raise both fish and plants for consumption while saving water and land integrity by not tilling the ground.
"You're not having to really harm the soil and cause lots of erosion," Serpan said.
This year, the Kansas Aquaculture Association is hoping to attract a younger crowd by reaching out to college and high school students involved in FFA or 4-H.
"We're trying to get anyone who is interested to come out," Serpan said.
Speakers will discuss fisheries, aquaculture and aquaponics in Kansas and beyond.
Dr. James Triplett, professor emeritus at Pittsburg State University, will talk about the history and future of the Kansas Aquaculture Association.
"If you are interested in learning more about the organization, this meeting will be the perfect opportunity," Serpan said.
Registration for the Kansas Aquaculture Association meeting is $10 for members, $15 for non-members and $5 for students and can be made in advance at https://www.facebook.com/KansasAquaculture or in person beginning at 8 a.m. Jan. 27.
The Kansas Aquaculture Association meeting sessions will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Jan. 27 at the Best Western Holiday Manor, 2211 E. Kansas Ave. in McPherson.
A fried catfish banquet withe raffle prize drawings will be held at 6 p.m. Jan. 27. Tickets are an additional $10.
For more information about the Kansas Aquaculture Association meeting, contact Serpan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Patricia Middleton by email at email@example.com or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.