From: Associated Press
Published July 28, 2005 12:00 AM

Scientists Hope to Boost Speckled Trout Populations

OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. — Scientists at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory are raising thousands of speckled trout to try to boost the population of one of the coast's most popular game fish.


"This is the first time this has been done with speckled trout," said associate research professor Reg Blaylock. "Recreational fishing is a huge economic engine in coastal communities, so the goal is to demonstrate whether or not stock enhancement can increase the population of the species. There's a lot of interest in being able to maintain those levels."


The lab is part of the University of Southern Mississippi's College of Marine Sciences.


The research lab received $250,000 from the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources for the pilot program, which began in May 2004. The fish are about five weeks old and up to 2 inches long.


"It's just getting started," said Jeffrey Lotz, chair of the Department of Coastal Sciences. "The whole idea of stock enhancement in a marine environment is relatively new, so where we are now is all new territory. We're using these fish to iron out the bugs and teach ourselves how to do it, but we're very happy with where we're at right now."


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The current batch of fish came from another fisheries project in Texas.


Blaylock said because of genetic differences between Texas and Mississippi trout, none of the current fish will be released in coastal waters.


He said once the growing process proves effective, genetically compatible batches of trout will be raised, tagged and released in along the Gulf Coast. Researchers later will take samples of the population and determine how successful their efforts have been.


"It's really a combination of maintaining the population for the anglers, and also maintaining the integrity of the marine ecosystem," Blaylock said.


Source: Associated Press


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