September 16, 2014  

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Southern Miss Partners with Others on Release of Red Snapper Fingerlings

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The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL), the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (DMR) and Aqua Green LLC are partnering to produce popular recreational fish such as spotted seatrout, red snapper, and cobia for release into Mississippi waters. The group will release hundreds of red snapper fingerlings onto offshore artificial reefs during the week of Dec. 3-7.

The fish were produced at GCRL’s Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center located at its Cedar Point site in Ocean Springs, Miss.

GCRL is one of the pioneers in red snapper aquaculture and is currently the only facility in the world actively culturing red snapper. GCRL began investigating aquaculture of this notoriously difficult species more than 10 years ago and released several thousand fish around the year 2000.

In 2011, GCRL, DMR, and Aqua Green formed the current partnership with the goal of increasing snapper production and release capability. This event is one of three this year that will result in the release of more than 1000 red snapper, a major first step in the reestablishment of the snapper program.


• The red snapper is among the most popular recreational and commercial catches in the Gulf of Mexico, and its harvest is heavily restricted by the National Marine Fisheries Service due to recent overfishing of wild stocks in the region.

• The goal of this project is to develop aquaculture based stock enhancement which can serve as an additional tool that resource managers can use to maintain red snapper populations.

• The program involves GCRL, DMR, and Aqua Green scientists and staff who are working collaboratively to develop the techniques to spawn, intensively rear, tag and release red snapper, as well as monitor the success of released fish to refine the process.

• The GCRL aquaculture program focuses on indoor, low-water-use, minimal discharge production systems.

• Almost 500 juvenile red snapper are being released the week of 3 Dec 2012. The method of release utilizes gravity flow.

• GCRL and DMR staff will conduct post-release surveys to assess the movement of released fish. Hatchery fish can be identified through detection of a coded-wire tag or using genetic method (‘genetic tagging’)

• The coded-wire tag is implanted beneath the skin of the fish’s nose 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.

• Genetic identification requires taking a small fin clip from re-captured fish; the procedure is harmless to the fish which can then be released while genetic assays of the fin clips are conducted in the laboratory.

• Genetic tagging consists in matching recaptured fish to the parental brood stock in the hatchery using molecular pedigrees.

• The project is:

            1) Expanding our understanding of the biology of red snapper,

            2) Developing the technology to sustain important resources,

            3) Nurturing a relationship with recreational angling and conservation groups such as the CCA, and

4) Developing a foundation for future environmentally friendly industries through aquaculture and stock enhancement of red snapper and other important local species.


• 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.