By DOTTY NIST
Walton County District 5 Commissioner Cecilia Jones hosted a meeting of a group of people enthusiastic about the possibility of a saltwater fish hatchery/marine plant nursery in Walton County.
Among the benefits touted for such a facility were help for impacted populations fish species, water quality improvement, enhancement of fishing opportunities, gains in tourism, educational opportunities, and job creation.
The gathering took place on Aug. 3 at District 5 headquarters in Grayton Beach and included a trip to a potential location for the facility.
Jones explained that the facility was one of a list of proposals in Walton County to be considered for funding by BP through the NRDA (Natural Resources Damage Assessment) process. Conducted under regulations developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the process is aimed at addressing natural resource damage suffered by the public as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
For information on hatcheries and assistance, Jones had contacted the Wildlife Foundation of Florida, the nonprofit citizen support organization for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The foundation supervises the Marine Fisheries Enhancement Initiative, a public-private partnership involving not only fish production but marine habitat restoration.
Brett Boston, foundation executive director, provided a presentation to the group. Attendees included included potential stakeholders and partners in the envisioned Walton County hatchery, among them representatives of the Northwest Florida Water Management District, the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, Lakewatch, and Walton County.
Boston explained that the Wildlife Foundation of Florida puts together partnerships that include communities, businesses, organizations and individuals for the benefit of the state’s fish and wildlife resources and habitat. He said the foundation has been involved in hatchery research for a number of years—and has been successful in breeding various fish and shellfish species. Now the research is being put to use, he noted, to help bolster fish populations by creating a network of hatcheries all over the state. In addition to direct stocking, fish species are also aided, he explained, by the production and addition of other species that are food for them and, through restoration projects, providing plants and other habitat elements that are important to their survival.
Fish from these hatcheries are comparable to wild fish, Boston said and, in fact hatchery fish are rotated with fish taken from their native habitat. This rotation ensures genetic diversity, he explained. The production of 10 million fish per year is possible with a large hatchery, Boston said.
Ecology is a key element of the process, Boston commented. Hatchery effluent is cleansed through the use of coastal wetlands created as part of the facilities….
Read the full story in the Aug. 11, 2011 edition of the Herald Breeze.