Florida Marine Fisheries Enhancement Initiative
Strengthening the Future for Sportfishing Along Florida''s Vast Costal Waterways.
A Brief Description
The Florida Marine Fisheries Enhancement Initiative is a multi-year, multi-partner program vital to sustaining our saltwater sportfish populations and the natural habitats of our precious marine life.
Our first saltwater hatchery helped keep the red drum population healthy and available in the Tampa Bay area. New technology and scientific insight have enabled the construction of even more effective marine enhancement centers that can provide a variety of game fish, at different stages of development.
To help bolster Florida''s sportfish populations that may otherwise be reduced by current demand, fishery scientists and managers advise creating a series of strategically networked hatcheries and grow-out facilities on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. This network, combined with parallel habitat restoration, will be most the efficient model for sustaining healthy sportfish populations.
Florida is the most popular sportfishing destination in the country and that popularity contributes about $5 billion to Florida''s economy annually. Maintaining healthy fish populations and habitats is critical to the continuation of that success. That is why we urge everyone who lives, works or plays in our beautiful state to help us make this initiative a reality and Support Florida Sportfish.
The Big Picture: A Three-Pronged Approach
Releasing hatchery-reared stock alone will not bolster populations as needed. Marine animals such as important fishery species do not exist without certain habitats along the coast. Seagrasses, salt marshes, mangroves, oyster beds, and hardbottom reefs provide the food and shelter necessary for these species to grow and reproduce. Throughout Florida’s history, many of these habitats have been lost or degraded. Restoration or enhancement of these areas is a second key component of responsible fisheries enhancement.
Good stewardship of Florida’s natural resources occurs through educating the current and future generations of residents and visitors. The third key component of the initiative is environmental education. The Enhancement Centers will serve as hubs for numerous education programs for all ages, including hands-on study of fishery species and their habitats.
The saltmarsh at FWC’s SERF facility serves as a model for responsible, sustainable fish and plant production.
A Team Effort
Construction of these innovative marine propagation and ecosystem restoration facilities will only be possible through teamwork. In addition to the partners already involved in the initiative, the team must include support from government, non-profit, academic and private fisheries research institutions-and from concerned citizens and other stakeholders. We also want to work with interested communities to design a localized program that can involve all interested residents. Your contributions are vital. Donations can be in the form of time, money, or property.
[Fish artwork copyright Diane Rome Peebles. Reprinted with permission.]