by Ian Courter
enyan Jon Rauni began work with the Pond Dynamics/Aquaculture CRSP in February 2002. Just two months later he began working on his masters degree in aquaculture at Moi University, Kenya. Raunis interest in pursuing his masters is attributed to his relationship with N.K. Kinyajui, who served as Sagana Fish Farm Head of Station at the time. After working with Rauni, Kinyajui advised him to develop his expertise in aquaculture. Rauni then applied for a CRSP scholarship through Moi University. After his application was accepted, Rauni dove into a rigorous schedule, balancing course work and thesis research under the supervision of PD/A CRSP Host Country Principal Investigator, Charles C. Ngugi.
As a youngster, Rauni grew up fishing near his hometown, Meru, located on the slopes of Mount Kenya in the Samburu Region. His love for fishing kindled his interest in aquaculture. It is fitting that Raunis CRSP research project is on Clarias, because he boasts a five hundred gram Clarias as his most prized catch while fishing. Clarias, a type of catfish, is Africas most widely distributed fish.
Rauni expects his thesis project, titled "Clarias Fingerlings as Bait Fish," will take him about two years to complete. He is working with Ngugi, Jim Bowman, and Baraza Wangila to explore the issues surrounding Clarias culture. Their research focuses on maximizing Clarias fingerling production through alteration of shading regime, stocking density, and grow-out period. A recent increase in demand for Clarias fingerlings stems from longliners in popular fishing areas such as the Winam Gulf. Clarias is the preferred bait for longlining in Kenya, with an estimated demand between 5,000 and 50,000 fingerlings per fishing day. This amounts to a demand of 1.5 to 15 million Clarias fingerlings per year. Clarias is a naturally abundant species, dwelling most often under floating shoreline vegetation. However, capturing the fingerlings can be destructive to native cichlid populations. Due to the importance of the cichlid fishery in Kenya, beach seining and fishing with mosquito nets have been banned in Kenya. Rauni and his colleagues feel that successful aquacultural production of Clarias is just what the Kenya freshwater fishery needs, providing an inexpensive supply of bait fish without damaging wild fish populations.
When asked what makes Kenya an excellent place to develop aquaculture, Rauni replied, "An abundant water supply, cheap agricultural products, and an ideal tropical climate. Kenya has a long history of aquaculture and now has Sagana and Moi University as good research and training centers."
What does the future hold? After graduation Rauni hopes to continue research and further his education, particularly with respect to Clarias, a fish which he has become increasingly fond of. He believes that Clarias is an important species because of its widespread distribution throughout Africa, marketability, and potential as a biological control species.
Rauni recognizes the increasing importance of aquaculture worldwide, but he also knows when its time to take a break from the hectic atmosphere of graduate school. When not in class or conducting aquaculture studies, Rauni finds himself fishing or relaxing to the melodious music of Charlie Pride and other country style favorites.