Habitat Restoration

Stock Enhancement

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.

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Flounder Juvenile
Courtesy University of North Carolina Wilmington

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.

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Flounder Fingerlings
Courtesy University of North Carolina Wilmington

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.

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Blue Crab Juveniles
Courtesy University of Maryland

The GCMLC will build upon years of successful stock enhancement programs implemented throughout the world to take a proactive approach to tackling the contentious issues related to genetics, diseases, displacement, and ecosystem effects of such activities. Significant research will be conducted prior to any enhancement activities to gather baseline data on wild stock abundance, composition, health, and release locations. Small-scale trials such as predator-prey interactions and forced exercise will be conducted to determine the optimal conditioning for hatchery-produced fish to assure high survivability and recruitment success of released individuals.

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Blue Crab Captive Female
Courtesy University of Maryland

Additionally, fisheries surveys will be conducted to gauge the performance of the fishery restoration efforts and to note the extent of wild fishery relief the Gulf Coast Marine Life Center’s stock enhancement efforts have on the overall fish stocks of the Gulf of Mexico. Such information will also allow for assessment of the cumulative environmental benefits of these restoration activities.

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Black Sea Bass Juvenile
Courtesy University of North Carolina Wilmington


The new pioneers in marine enhancement are fisheries scientists and fishermen, working together on a shared but carefully allocated resource, as exemplified in Japan. The principal enhanced marine fisheries are Yesso scallop, Kuruma prawn, red sea bream, and flounder. The practice benefits from the country's extensive continental shelf but it is estimated that stocking accounts for 90% of the chum salmon fishery, 50% of the Kuruma prawn catch, up to 75% of red sea bream, almost all the scallop harvest, and up to 40% of the flounder (Kitada et al., 1992).