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FWC Marine Fisheries Stock Enhancement Research

a net holding dozens of baby fish in the water

The FWC Marine Fisheries Stock Enhancement Research program began releasing hatchery-reared red drum in late 1988. Since then, over six million hatchery-reared red drum have been stocked statewide.

FWC follows the "responsible approach" toward stock enhancement that includes multiple levels of economic, social, and biological considerations to prevent negative effects to the wild fish stocks and to Florida’s natural ecosystems. The stock enhancement program conducts research to develop and improve techniques for spawning, growing, and releasing saltwater sportfish into the wild. This research ultimately aims to maintain or increase fishing opportunities in Florida’s coastal waters now and in the future and is often collaborative with academic, research, and not-for-profit organizations. Redfish and spotted seatrout are the focus of FWC’s marine stock enhancement research. FWC’s recent research has improved techniques for growing redfish indoors in tanks with recirculating filtration in preparation for the move to the new Marine Fisheries Enhancement Center (MFEC) at Apollo Beach. These same techniques used to grow redfish will be adapted and applied to growing spotted seatrout.

The hatchery-reared fish are stocked into habitats suitable for their survival and their impacts on the overall fishery are assessed by identifying them during FWC’s routine fisheries monitoring. Stocked fish are identified using DNA markers to determine the date and location of their release. This allows the hatchery fish contribution to be distinguished from the wild portion of the fishery and to assess the effectiveness of the enhancement strategy. Large (3-9 inches) juvenile fish can be externally marked prior to release with external streamer tags for visible identification by scientists and recreational anglers or internally marked by coded-wire tags (detectable by a wire tag reader) to increase the complexity and level of information gained from releases. Data obtained from the captured hatchery fish is used to determine survival, growth, diet, health, distance traveled from the release location, and contribution to the fishery. DNA markers and both external and internal tags were used during Project Tampa Bay to identify effective stock enhancement strategies from the perspective of many fisheries disciplines.


Lorenzen, K., K.M. Leber, and H.L. Blankenship. 2010. Responsible approach to marine stock enhancement: an update. Reviews in Fisheries Science. 18(2): 189-210.
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