MELBOURNE, FLA. — Florida is recognized as the number one destination for saltwater sportfishing enthusiasts, producing an estimated $5 billion in annual
revenue for the state’s economy. State Wildlife authorities and sport fishing groups agree these state resources must be protected to maintain Florida’s
prominence as well as its natural environmental balance.
A strong, state-wide, public-private coalition of interested partners in the state, including Florida Institute of Technology, have banded together to plan
for the long-term health of the state’s indigenous fisheries resources. With an objective of responsible renourishment of those species, they plan to grow
redfish, sea trout and snook at several hatchery sites throughout the state. The initiative also features parallel habitat restoration activities.
Wildlife Foundation of Florida, under the supervision of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), leads the initiative. Partners
include: Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, Coastal Conservation Association, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Mote Marine Laboratory, the University
of Miami and Florida Tech.
Plans call for six to eight sites throughout the state, each playing a critical, non-duplicative role in the overall project. The cost for each site is
anticipated to range between $8 and $10 million. The sites will come online in a 10-year phased approach beginning in 2009.
Technological advances in fish culture, especially related to the feasibility of small footprint, recirculating systems, are proceeding rapidly, making it
likely that cost per facility will come down over time. Funds will be raised from industry, private donors, grants, governmental bodies, non-profit,
academic and private fisheries research institutions, and concerned citizens and other stakeholders. Fund-raising will focus on priority sites and species.
Some sportfish have already been produced at the Port Manatee Hatchery for Project Tampa Bay, FWC’s pilot stocking project. The initiative has set a target
to produce significant quantities of viable redfish by 2010-11 on Florida’s East Coast.
For more information about Florida Tech’s involvement, contact Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, Jonathan Shenker, Ph.D., at (321) 674-8145 or at
Shenker@fit.edu. Or visit: http://www.supportfloridasportfish.com.