FAU Harbor Branch Project to Help Sportfishing Industry

Research funded by a grant from the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust will design and test experimental means of growning bonefish for stock enhancement.

FAU Harbor Branch's aquaculture park will be home to the new grant-funded bonefish stock enhancement research project.

By carin smith | 4/1/2016

Aquaculture scientists at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) are embarking on a $3 million grant-funded project designed to help Florida’s multi-billion dollar sportfishing industry. The research, funded by a grant from the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT) in partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, is the first of its kind and involves the design and testing of an experimental research project to grow bonefish for stock enhancement. BTT board members and senior staff will officialize the grant and tour the aquaculture facilities on Thursday, March 17 at HBOI, 5600 U.S. 1 North, Fort Pierce. Members of the press are invited for a photo opportunity that day at 10 a.m.

“FAU Harbor Branch is well-equipped to take on this project,” said Megan Davis, Ph.D., HBOI interim executive director. “Our extensive infrastructure that is already in place coupled with years of experience in working the life cycle of a variety of fish is what helped us win the grant. We are excited to take on this groundbreaking work.” 

Bonefish populations have been declining in recent years, with estimates showing a decrease of as much as 90 percent in some areas, including the Florida Keys.

“This is an incredible opportunity for the university,” said FAU President John Kelly. “This valuable partnership will help provide solutions for one of Florida’s most economically important industries, and I’m excited FAU was the university selected to lead the way with this cutting edge work.”

BTT uses a science-based approach to learn about and identify threats to bonefish, tarpon and permit fisheries in the U.S. and Caribbean basin and applies a combination of research, stewardship, education and advocacy efforts to address areas of concern.

 “This unique project will provide an important tool in our efforts to restore the Florida Keys bonefish fishery, and we are confident the excellent team at Harbor Branch will help us achieve the project goals,” said Jim McDuffie, BTT executive director. “Learning to spawn and raise bonefish in a captive setting has significant implications for the Keys fishery and fishery conservation efforts in general.”

Florida’s recreational and commercial fishing industries and associated businesses account for billions of dollars that drive the economic engine for the state each year and contribute to hundreds of thousands of jobs.

For more information, contact Carin Smith at 772-242-2230 or carinsmith@fau.edu, or visit www.fau.edu/hboi.