The Gulf Coast Marine Life Center will support shellfish restoration programs and operations through research and development of better and safer technologies to ensure the economic and ecological viability of shellfish aquaculture operations in the Gulf region. The Center’s first phase will consist of a 20,000 sqft facility mainly focused on the production of marine shellfish.
Shellfish production at the hatchery will be available to local restoration efforts, existing artificial reef installations and commercial enterprises as high quality seed stock. The Gulf Coast Marine Life Center will be capable of producing the following species:
- White Shrimp (Litopenaeus setiferus)
- Pink Shrimp (Farfantepenaeus duorarum)
- Bay Scallop (Argopecten irradians)
- Eastern Oyster (Crassostrea virginica)
- Blue Crab (Callinectes sapidus)
- Various Gulf of Mexico Native species for R&D
The Gulf Coast Marine Life Center recognizes that the distinct phases of shellfish production rely on high volume production of pure cultures of microalgae. The technology for algal production is well developed, and the Gulf Coast Marine Life Center hatchery will incorporate a state of the art continuous production system such as the Seasalter SeaCAPS. This system will provide a continuous supply of algae without down time to re-clean containers and introduce new cultures. Furthermore, a live feeds area for the production of rotifers and artemia is vital for the nutrition, health, and growth of many of the above-mentioned species being reared at the GCMLC. A 1,000 sqft area will be dedicated for culturing live feeds.
From its inception, the hatchery will focus on the production of the eastern oyster, a valued species in the Gulf of Mexico region. A 5,000 sqft broodstock, hatchery and nursery will be implemented for the initial production of oysters.
From a habitat perspective, shellfish restoration projects would provide enormously valuable benefits to the local environment. Shellfish form the basis of many reef systems and they create environmental conditions that allow a variety of other plant and animal species to thrive. The inclusion of shellfish on natural and artificial reefs can provide many ecosystem services, including food and habitat for fish, crabs, and birds; water filtration; and shoreline stabilization and coastal defense. Shellfish reefs work in conjunction with coral reefs to provide protection for shorelines from wave energy. The time is ripe to take a proactive leap into the restoration of the Gulf Coast marine environment and shellfish is a vital component towards that goal.