Florida's first state operated marine fish hatchery spawns and
raises hatchery fish for stock enhancement in Florida waters.
Florida's first state operated marine
fish hatchery opened its doors in April, 1988. The first red drum
fingerlings were harvested 77 days later. The facility was
constructed to support experimental stock enhancement research and
to conduct research on hatchery propagation and rearing of marine
and estuarine fishes.
Built on 54 acres provided to the state by the Manatee County
Port Authority, the Stock Enhancement Research Facility (SERF)
consists of several key systems. These systems include a seawater
pumping station, a 12,000 square foot hatchery building, 12
one-acre and six quarter-acre ponds, a discharge water effluent
system, office, lab, and maintenance work areas.
The process of spawning and raising hatchery fish at SERF begins
at a seawater pumping station. The station consists of a 100-foot
wooden dock with a 10 square foot concrete platform. Seawater is
supplied through one of two large 50-horsepower pumps through 1.2
miles of dual 12-inch pipes at 1,300 gallons-per-minute.
This pipeline also supplies water to the main hatchery building.
Six 15,000-gallon and eight 100-gallon fiberglass tanks are used
for water storage. This building also houses nine independent
3,000-gallon tanks in separate spawning rooms; these tanks are for
holding and spawning sexually mature adult red drum. Within each
room, water temperature and day length can be controlled, mimicking
the natural parameters of light and temperature. This allows
biologists to shorten each simulated season (winter, spring, and
summer) and artificially prolong the spawning season (fall). In
this way, red drum can be fooled into spawning on demand. Two
boiler and chiller systems are used to manage the hatchery tank
water temperatures. Timers on the light systems regulate the
simulated day length. Each broodstock holding tank is equipped with
biological, sand, diatomaceous earth, and ultra-violet light
filters. Swimming pool pumps are used to circulate water, and an
aeration system insures adequate oxygen level in the water. Once
the broodstock spawn, their eggs are collected and placed into one
of eleven incubation tanks to hatch. Shortly after hatching, the
"fry" are transported to one of the growout ponds.
All of the hatchery grow-out ponds are designed with
high-density polyethylene liners, concrete drainage, and fish
collection basins called "kettles." Four of the one-acre ponds are
fitted with bird exclusion nets. These nets are critical to
production as diving and wading birds can decimate a pond's fish
population in a very short time. The quarter-acre ponds have
electricity available enabling the use of aeration "tornados."
Increasing the amount of oxygen in the water through aeration
allows for much higher fish stocking densities and increases
production capability. Each pond is a "flow-through" system.
Saltwater enters the pond through a 12-inch pipe and discharges
through the kettle drain.
Discharge water (saltwater that has been used by hatchery
systems) from both the grow-out ponds and hatchery building travels
through 2,300 feet of plastic lined drainage ditch to the primary
effluent treatment system, a two-arce retention pond. A portion of
the discharge water also moves through the secondary effluent
treatment system, a 1 ½-acre salt marsh grass pond that is a
"natural" water filter. Discharge water is returned to Tampa Bay in
a condition better than it arrived.
In addition to the effluent water treatment, growout pond, and
hatchery systems, the 5-station fish tagging system provides an
efficient fish marking capability. In order to measure the success
of a stock enhancement program, it is necessary to track released
fish. The fish tagging station provides the capability to tag more
than 20,000 fish per day with tiny internal coded-wire tags. In
addition, larger fish (at least seven inches in length) can be
tagged with external streamer tags. Both of these tag types allow
hatchery fish to be identified by biologists or anglers when the
fish are caught in Tampa Bay.