Hatcheries
Support Florida Sportfish

Working together, fishery scientists and managers are creating a series of
strategically networked hatcheries and grow-out facilities on both the Atlantic
and Gulf Coasts. This network combined with habitat restoration efforts,
is the most efficient way to sustain healthy sport fish populations.



Hatcheries

Florida is well-known for its diverse and abundant saltwater fishing opportunities. From the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, and in all the tributaries in between, saltwater fishing is about a $5 billion industry in Florida. Keeping it alive and well can be a challenge but Florida’s Marine Fisheries Enhancement Initiative (FMFEI) was developed to meet that challenge.

You’re probably saying, wait, what does that mean?! It means that scientists from several government and private agencies and organizations are working together to make sure the saltwater sportfish we love to catch, and the precious natural habitats that are critical to abundant marine life, are healthy now and far into the future.

It is a lofty goal with a lot of challenges, not the least of which is funding.

Here’s just a little bit of history. Many years ago the state developed the Stock Enhancement Research Facility (SERF), the only state-operated hatchery raising saltwater fish in Florida. SERF, now part of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), began raising fish in 1988; the first fingerlings it raised were released in Volusia County later that year.

In 10 years SERF had raised and released more than six million little redfish (red drum) in various locations around the state. That was great but there was a problem: nobody really knew if the raise-and-release program worked to enhance the existing redfish populations because there was no funding to track the fish after they were released.

So in early 1998 the Marine Stock Enhancement Advisory Board (MSEAB) was created and that gave the ones who love to fish (anglers) a voice in how marine stock enhancement is done in the state. The 12 board members are all part of the recreational fishing community and they meet periodically with FWC scientists to plan strategies and make decisions on stocking issues.

The first thing they agreed on was to stop spending money releasing little redfish all over the state without knowing if it

was doing any good. To figure this out they suggested conducting a stocking project in Tampa Bay. Thus Project Tampa Bay was born with two goals: 1) determine the optimal size of fish as well as where and when to release that fish to get the biggest bang for the buck, and 2) increase the number of redfish caught by anglers in Tampa Bay by 25 percent.

The project worked pretty well and gave saltwater fisheries managers a better idea of how to successfully raise and release fish to help bolster Florida’s sportfish populations that may otherwise be reduced by current fishing demands.

Using the SERF model fisheries experts advised creating a series of strategically networked saltwater hatcheries and grow out facilities, that when combined with habitat restoration, would be most the efficient way to sustain healthy sportfish populations. These Enhancement Centers would also provide educational facilities to help folks understand what it takes to have healthy, abundant and sustainable fish populations. With education comes understanding; with understanding comes stewardship; with stewardship comes support.

Simply put, there are three things necessary for a successful saltwater fish population enhancement program to work: the fish, the habitat, and public support.

That is the Florida’s Marine Fisheries Enhancement Initiative (FMFEI)!

To learn more about it and why it’s so important for all us who love Florida and it’s natural wonders to get involved, visit Florida’s Marine Fisheries Enhancement Initiative’s website http://supportfloridasportfish.com/Home.

©2015 Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
The Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Inc. is a registered 501(c)(3) organization. FEIN 59-3277808. All donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law.




©2015 Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
The Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Inc. is a registered 501(c)(3) organization. FEIN 59-3277808. All donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law.

“Due to the efforts of the Foundation and Brett Boston in particular, the FWC is poised to adopt a science-based statewide approach to expanding our marine sportfish enhancement capability in the face of ever-increasing challenges associated with our marine fisheries.”

–Gil McRae FWRI Director