Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (DMR) and The University
of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory Thursday
officially launched a new initiative to develop a spotted seatrout
stocking program in Mississippi.
at Gulf Hills Conference Center laid the foundation for the Seatrout
Population Enhancement Cooperative (SPEC), bringing together leading
scientists involved in stock enhancement, managers of stocking programs
in other states and more than 30 representatives of groups interested
in the future of Mississippi's spotted seatrout, also known as speckled
trout. The joint project will test the effectiveness of using hatchery-raised
fish to enhance Mississippi's seatrout population.
Walker, DMR executive director, said the support of the Mississippi
Legislature and the Secretary of State's Office made the effort
possible through Tidelands Trust Funds with $75,000 for the 2003-2004
fiscal year and $250,000 for the upcoming fiscal year. He also cited
the Coast Conservation Association for supporting the concept of
a speckled trout hatchery.
meeting convinced me that this is something we can do," Walker
said in his closing remarks. "We have a good team put together."
featured principles of the relatively new scientific discipline
of marine stock enhancement, how stocking programs in South Carolina,
Florida and Texas work, and efforts underway at the GCRL. Panel
discussions included questions, issues and concerns raised by participating
anglers, representatives of conservation groups, agency marine resource
managers and scientists.
Dr. Ken Leber of Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla., outlined
the goals of stock enhancement research and its contribution to
meeting the criteria for responsible stocking in marine and coastal
facilities director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife effort, reported
on his state's stocking program that stocks spotted seatrout and
red drum in the millions per year. "In any particular bay on
any given day, 20 percent of the fish -- caught by anglers or in
our staff's bag seines -- are our hatchery-reared fish." Abrego
of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources said his program's
experience was that releasing juveniles of one to two inches long
at the right season contributed more to the fishery in their pilot
release areas than the more expensive option of rearing fish to
a larger size for release. "For five years, 40 percent of 'age
one' fish -- fish about 14 inches -- that were recaptured in stocking
areas by both anglers and by our agency were from our hatchery,"
of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission noted that
focusing resources and expertise cooperatively is crucial to a program's
think any one agency or group can do it alone," he said. "It
takes the state agency, the university and stakeholders -- the anglers
who expect to benefit from the effort."
Hawkins, executive director of the GCRL, applauded DMR's vision
in seeking a scientific basis for determining whether fish released
into Mississippi waters will contribute to the fishery.
be gathering scientific data for a specific purpose," Hawkins
said. "The purpose of the SPEC project is to enhance the natural
population where it needs enhancing. In addition to that, because
this is new science and a new species for stock enhancement in Mississippi,
there are beneficial spin-offs from this effort that we aren't even
aware of yet."
plans now in the design stage for an 8,000-square-foot facility
for holding brood stock for egg production, hatching and rearing
spotted seatrout for release. He noted that the experiences of the
GCRL team in the red snapper stock enhancement research and development
project had demonstrated the importance of the tenets of responsible
stock enhancement. GCRL and its partners in the red snapper research
were the first to successfully answer questions about the effectiveness
of releasing hatchery-raised red snapper in the marine environment.
is not an industrial process where you are going to stamp out a
standard product," he said. "With each repetition of a
sequence of procedures, we will develop and implement incremental
changes that move us closer to the result we need. We could get
brood stock from Texas right now, but we might be importing a genetically
different fish, and we don't want to do that," Hawkins said.
"This is a long-term commitment, not a one-year project."
He said in
the first phase, the lab is capturing mature specks for brood stock
from the area where their hatchery-reared offspring will be released.
Director Dr. Fred Deegen is coordinating the joint research effort.
Southern Miss researcher Dr. Reg Blaylock of the GCRL is principal
investigator. Working with him are Dr. Jeff Lotz, professor of coastal
sciences, and GCRL research staff John Ogle, Casey Nicholson, Sue
Barnes, Angelos Apeitos and Don Barnes.
Department of Marine Resources is dedicated to enhancing, protecting
and conserving marine interests of the state by managing all marine
life, public trust wetlands, adjacent uplands and waterfront areas
to provide for the optimal commercial, recreational, educational
and economic uses of these resources consistent with environmental
concerns and social changes. The GCRL and the Department of Coastal
Sciences are part of the Southern Miss College of Science and Technology.
Other Southern Miss units associated with GCRL are the Center for
Fisheries Research and Development and the Gulf Coast Geospatial
Center, both headquartered at the lab, and the J.L. Scott Marine
Education Center and Aquarium in Biloxi. For more information about
the SPEC partners, visit www.dmr.state.ms.us and www.usm.edu/gcrl.