Aquaculture-Aided Enhancement & Restoration of Florida’s Recreational Fisheries

Full Title: Aquaculture-Aided Enhancement & Restoration of Florida’s Coastal Recreational Fisheries: A Collaborative Research & Planning Process
Marine recreational fishing in Florida, involving millions of participants and generating billions in economic impact annually, faces threats from environmental degradation and fishing pressure. While stocking hatchery-reared fish is a common management measure, its effectiveness varies, highlighting the need for careful assessment and management. This project aims to establish a network of scientists and practitioners to enhance stocking initiatives through improved data analysis, modeling tools, and guidelines, ultimately maximizing positive outcomes while minimizing negative impacts on fisheries and ecosystems.
Lead Investigator: Dr. Kai Lorenzen, University of Florida
Project Team: Luiz Barbieri Ph.D.- Section Administrator FWRI, Edward V. Camp, Ph.D.- Assistant Professor UF, Chelsey Crandall, Ph.D.- Research Administrator FWRI, Jason Lemus, Ph.D.- Research Administrator FWRI, Joshua Patterson, Ph.D.- Associate Professor UF, Nicole Rhody, Ph.D.- Program Manager Mote Marine Laboratory, Ryan Schloesser, Ph.D.- Program Manager Mote Marine Laboratory, Laura Tiu, Ph.D. – Multi-County Extension Agent UF Florida Sea Grant Extension
Collaborator: FWRI, Mote Marine Laboratory, Coastal Conservation Association, Duke Energy, Crystal River Mariculture Center
Award Amount: $197,991
Year Funded: 2024
Award Period: 2024-2026
Project Abstract:

Over 6.5 million Floridians and visitors participate in marine recreational fishing, generating an economic impact of $ 12 billion annually. The fisheries resources supporting this activity are under threat from environmental degradation, catastrophic event such as red tides or cold kills, and from fishing pressure itself. Aside from restricting harvest and augmenting habitat, aquaculture-aided fisheries enhancement and restoration through stocking of hatchery-reared fish is a widely supported management measure.

Stocking can be an effective measure for fisheries enhancement or restoration, but often fails to deliver significant benefits, and sometimes has deleterious effects on the naturally recruited component of the stock. It is therefore crucial to carefully assess and manage stocking programs. In Florida, experimental marine stocking programs have been conducted by management and research institutions since the 1980s, and research aimed at quantitatively assessing the contribution of stocking to fisheries management goals has been conducted at the University of Florida. Increasingly, stocking activities are being conducted by stakeholder groups in conjunction with private hatchery producers. This creates both an opportunity and a need to better integrate enhancement science and practice to guide stocking initiatives towards practices that maximize the likelihood of positive outcomes and minimize the risk of negatively impacting fisheries and ecosystems.

The project will address this by establishing a network of marine enhancement scientists and practitioners; collating and synthesizing statewide marine stocking data; developing user-friendly modeling, analysis and visualization tools to help inform and evaluate stocking initiatives; enhance data collection and analysis protocols; and develop good practice guidelines to make scientific and professional guidance available to all stocking initiatives.

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