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Red drum and spotted seatrout are beloved fish in Texas, but the health of their population is compromised by fishing.

9/10/2014
Credit:
Wide Open Spaces
Red drum and spotted seatrout are some of the most popular species fished for every year. Recreational saltwater fishing in Texas generates about $2.2 billion per year, and thousands of jobs.

It could be assumed that because the fishing economy is thriving, so also the fish populations must be. But it is not always the case.

Gold and Veda are focused on two main hatchery projects for red drum and spotted seatrout. Similar hatchery tests were performed in the 1970s and 1980s to increase the number of fish in Texas saltwater. Research was conducted to measure how many hatchery-released fish were caught by anglers.

The numbers proved to be successful many two and three year old fish were caught, meaning these fish were ready to reproduce on their own.

Producing red drum and spotted seatrout in hatcheries has increased the numbers of these fish so much that they are actually reaching record levels in Texas.

A challenge with releasing fish from hatcheries is maintaining the same genetics as the wild fish. This is avoided by breeding many pairs of fish rather than just a small number of them.

Fish without genetic variation tend not to survive, says Gold. "In order to be able to respond to environmental changes like increasing water temperatures, water pollutions, and even oil, they need to have genetic variation." Females that are not aiding in genetic variation via mating are replaced by some that will successfully incorporate genetic variation to the hatchery population.

This movement and research is conducted and maintained by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Coastal Fisheries Division.
 
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