The Big Reds Tournament FAQ

1. Why is the FWC harvesting redfish brood stock from East coast of Florida?

The Wildlife Foundation of Florida and the FWC are partnering with other environmental organizations to establish a saltwater hatchery network for fish and habitat restoration in Florida. This collaborative effort, referred to as the Florida Marine Fisheries Enhancement Initiative, will create a series of strategically-networked hatcheries and grow-out facilities on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to help bolster Florida's sport fish populations. The goal of the initiative is to develop a cost effective system that is integrated into long-term fisheries management. One of the initial steps in establishing an East Coast hatchery is to collect a breeding stock. For this purpose, the FWC and its partners need to collect mature, healthy redfish from Florida’s East Coast.

2. Why collect wild-caught brood stock and breed them at the hatchery instead of allowing them to spawn naturally in the wild?

The sustainability of marine sport fish is influenced by many factors, including threats such as urban development and Florida’s projected growth. The FWC considers a saltwater hatchery network as an option for supporting marine sport fish populations into the future. Marine stock enhancement in Florida is not intended to replace the natural growth of a fish population, but rather serve as a “tool” that fisheries managers can use in conjunction with other management approaches such as fishing regulations and habitat protection. Therefore, the FWC is collecting a select number of brood stock to enable the hatchery capability for the East Coast.

3. Is there a need to supplement the current redfish population in the Indian River Lagoon with hatchery-reared fish?

The development of hatchery capabilities for future stock enhancement is a long-term process. The FWC is building upon its expertise in redfish stock enhancement by using this species as the model species for developing the capability. Plans for future stocking in a specific water body will be carefully evaluated. Redfish have been considered the candidate stock enhancement species due to their, hardiness and ease of rearing in a controlled environment.

4. Based on the current stock assessment in 2008, the FWC is considering an increase of the bag limit for redfish in the northeast and northwest part of the state. With those potential rule changes, why is the FWC collecting redfish brood stock from a system that already has a naturally occurring redfish population?

Based on a recent regional analysis of the redfish stock assessment, the FWC is considering possible rule changes. The changes being discussed include creating three regional management areas for redfish and raising the bag limit to two redfish per person per day in the two northern regions of the state.

At this time, the redfish population in the Indian River Lagoon appears to be healthy. However, unforeseen events such as oil spills or extreme weather conditions can have negative impacts on the population. For example, the extreme cold weather that influenced Florida in January 2010 caused some redfish mortalities on the east coast of the state. Having the ability to restore or supplement sport fish populations following these types of scenarios requires a fish stocking program to be in place.

5. What is the Florida Marine Fisheries Enhancement Initiative?

Under the supervision of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Marine Fisheries Enhancement Initiative is a public-private partnership created to ensure that the exceptional recreational fishing opportunities that have earned Florida its place as the fishing capital of the world remain available. The Florida Marine Fisheries Enhancement Initiative is a multi-year, multi-partner program vital to sustaining Florida’s saltwater sportfish populations and the natural habitats of Florida’s marine life.

6. Who are the partners of the Florida Marine Fisheries Enhancement Initiative?

Partner agencies assisting the Wildlife Foundation of Florida and the FWC with this effort include CCA Florida, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, the Florida Institute of Technology, Mote Marine Laboratory, Port Manatee and the University of Miami Rosentiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.