The Gulf Coast Marine Life Center's University experts will work with local community leaders, charter boat captains, and recreational fishermen to develop community-based stock enhancement programs that will assist State and Federal Officials with a variety of tools to enhance and restore the fisheries. Despite the catastrophic natural disasters and monumental anthropogenic abuse the region has experienced, the Gulf of Mexico yields more finfish, shrimp, and shellfish annually than the south and mid-Atlantic, Chesapeake, and New England areas combined. The region generates 40% of the seafood caught commercially in the entire U.S. The Gulf is diverse and rich in terms of desirable species in the global seafood market. Reef and coastal fish such as snapper, grouper, amberjack, pompano, triggerfish and cobia have tremendous commercial value today and hold the potential to further expand. A unique strength of the Gulf of Mexico fishery relative to many others is its proportionally large recreational sector, which has a multi-billion dollar annual economic impact on the region.
Gulf Coast Marine Life Center’s hatchery will have the infrastructure, technology, and expertise to support large-scale fingerling and juvenile finfish production. Based on proposed facility design, the GCMLC marine finfish broodstock and hatchery will be capable of producing over 1.8 million cobia, Florida pompano, and flounder fingerlings a year for direct release or further growout for stock enhancement efforts. Other Gulf native species such as red snapper, gag grouper, and amberjack may also be produced based on the needs of the regional fisheries management agencies.
There are examples around the world of very successful stock enhancement programs involving local fishermen and community leaders, such as the University of Maryland's Blue Crab program. Over the past 12 years, the University of Maryland has developed technologies and protocols for closing the life cycle of the Blue Crab in captivity, spawning the females, efficiently growing the larvae, and producing hundreds of thousands of hatchery juvenile crabs. Using these juveniles, modern and responsible strategies have been perfected for Blue Crab stock restoration and enhancement in the Chesapeake Bay. These strategies can be replicated along the Gulf Coast of the United States as well.