Seatrout Population Enhancement Cooperative, a partnership among the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL), the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (DMR) and the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) of Mississippi since 2005, will release thousands of spotted seatrout fingerlings into the waters of Saint Louis Bay the week of Aug. 13-17 at Cedar Point Boat Launch, Bay St. Louis, Miss. and Merlin Necaise Boat Launch on the Wolf River.
These fish were produced at GCRL’s Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center located at its Cedar Point site in Ocean Springs, MS. To date, a total of about 500,000 fingerlings have been released into Davis Bayou and Bay St. Louis.
The SPEC program began in 2005 with broodstockfrom Davis Bayou (Ocean Springs, MS). The first fingerlings were released back into that bayou in Fall 2006.
In December 2007, the Bay St. Louis chapter of the Mississippi CCA coordinated and held a fishing tournament to collect broodstock from Saint Louis Bay for the program. Since then, the CCA has continued to coordinate collection of broodstock animals from Bay St. Louis. This week’s release of fingerlings marks the continuation of Bay St. Louis releases that began in 2009.
Facts and Figures
• SPEC was founded in 2004 as a collaborative effort among Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, and recreational angling groups such as CCA.
• In 2006, GCRL and DMR produced the first-ever captive spawned and reared Mississippi spotted seatrout in indoor, low-water-use systems at GCRL’s Cedar Point site in Ocean Springs. Additionally, 2006 saw the first-ever tagging and release of Mississippi spotted seatrout.
• The GCRL program focuses on indoor, low-water-use, minimal discharge production systems.
• The spotted seatrout is the most popular recreational catch in the Gulf of Mexico, and it is under considerable fishing pressure.
• The goal of this project is to develop additional tools that resource managers can use to maintain spotted seatrout populations.
• The program is developing the technology to maximize the contribution of released fish to the population of spotted seatrout in Mississippi waters. GCRL and DMR scientists and staff are conducting the research and developing the techniques to spawn, intensively rear, tag and release spotted seatrout, as well as monitor the released fish to refine the process.
• An estimated 40,000 juvenile spotted seatrout are being released into Saint Louis Bay the week of Aug. 13-17. The method of release utilizes gravity flow.
• All released fish are identifiable genetically so that scientists can later differentiate hatchery fish that have been recaptured from wild fish. Approximately 25,000 of the fish will be released at two inches in size and containing only the genetic tag. Approximately15,000 of the fish are four to six inches in length and are also tagged with a Coded-Wire Tag. Each tag is approximately 1 mm in size and is etched with letters and numbers indicating data such as site of release and batch/group of fish. This information enables scientists to track groups of fish by characteristics and evaluate the success of releases.
• The coded-wire tag is implanted beneath the skin of the fish’s cheek where it remains for the life of the fish.
• The coded-wire tag is NOT externally visible; magnetic detectors are used to identify tagged fish.
• The project is:
1) Expanding our understanding of the biology of spotted seatrout,
2) Developing the technology to sustain important resources,
3) Nurturing a relationship with recreational anglers, management agencies and conservation groups, and
4) Developing a foundation for future environmentally friendly industries through aquaculture and stock enhancement of spotted seatrout and other important local species.
• SPEC is an ongoing project. Release sites are being sampled regularly.
• Post-release assessments will continue for months and the results will drive designs for future releases.
• The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Laboratory is a major marine laboratory on the Gulf of Mexico.
• GCRL was among the first to apply modern technology of fish culture and tagging to research and development focused on restoration or enhancement of marine fish populations in the Gulf of Mexico.