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The channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) is the most important aquaculture species in the United States. In 2002, just over 630 million pounds of channel catfish were processed, representing about half the total United States aquaculture production. Over 95% of channel catfish aquaculture occurs in four states (Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana) located in the southeastern United States. Mississippi is by far the leading channel catfish producing state and accounts for over 70% of the total production.

The channel catfish is a member of the family Ictaluridae—the North American catfishes—which comprises seven genera and at least 45 species.  Many are fine table fish, but by virtue of its many favorable culture characteristics, the channel catfish accounts for nearly all of the commercial foodfish production in the United States. Channel catfish are native to central North America between the Rocky and Appalachian mountains, from the Gulf of Mexico north to the Hudson Bay drainage. Channel catfish are popular sport fish, and they have been widely introduced throughout North America.


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