Red snapper is considered an overfished Gulf of Mexico species. (Photo: Gulf Coast Research Laboratory)
New red snapper enhancement laboratory in the works
Tuesday, April 06, 2010, 16:50 (GMT + 9)
A building being constructed at the University of Southern Mississippi's Cedar Point site will soon lead the country’s research on red snapper stock enhancement.
Red snapper, considered overfished by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), is one of the most lucrative species in the Gulf of Mexico.
Jason Lemus, research associate and hatchery manager at Cedar Point -- part of the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL) -- said the 5,260-sqft, USD 1.3 million-building to be completed next year will be the apotheosis of the country’s red snapper development programmes.
In fact, the current programme running in a temporary building is already heading all snapper rearing programmes, he told, Mississippi Press reports.
"[Copepods] are key to red snapper aquaculture," Lemus said. "This is what separates our programme from anybody else in the States.”
|Jason Lemus (Photo: GCRL)
“We are the only programme that grows copepods in numbers sufficient to culture red snapper. So, we should all feel proud Mississippi has something other people don't have," he added.
The programme is being funded by the university, the state's Department of Marine Resources (DMR) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Lemus specified.
Wild fish are line-caught, induced to spawn and produce 4-to-6 in-long red snappers within 100 days. These fish are large enough to then be tagged and released into the wild, he informed.
At full capacity, the laboratory will produce 70,000-180,000 fish per year.
While, Lemus said, red snapper currently cost more than USD 1 each to raise, commercially-raised red drum cost just USD 0.17 each.
"We know a little bit, but we have a long ways to go," Lemus stated about the fish's production.
Due to weak stocks, NMFS recently proposed a 54-day snapper season in 2010 running from 1 June-24 July with a daily limit of two fish.
"Our goal for stock enhancement is to develop a responsible and cohesive strategy to assist in rebuilding or maintaining fish populations," Lemus said.
GCRL also has programmes to grow speckled trout and striped bass, but snapper are the trickiest to raise because their larvae are "very delicate and difficult to grow," he explained.
Meanwhile, some commercial and recreational fishers and scientists are arguing against the "overfished" status given to the gulf’s red snapper.
"One of the key issues is that almost 20 years ago, wild capture fisheries capped out. We are not harvesting from the wild any more fish than we did 20 years ago," said Thomas McIlwain, project director at GCRL.
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