In the U.S., we import 91 percent of the seafood consumed by Americans, leading to a $10 billion trade deficit. At the same time, saltwater fishing in Florida generates an estimated $6.1 billion in revenues annually. 

Mote Marine Laboratory recognized the need to develop and increase domestic aquaculture production to provide new sources of fish for human consumption and to restock species that are being depleted because of habitat destruction and overfishing. To achieve this goal, Mote Scientific Foundation purchased 200 acres of land to be developed into the Mote Aquaculture Park (MAP). In 2001, Mote Marine Laboratory realized our goal of building an R&D facility that would allow us to address the worldwide need for sustainable aquaculture systems to feed the world, restock depleted species, and address the domestic need to develop a viable aquaculture industry in the U.S.

Our research is addressing new ways to clean and re-use both fresh and salt-water in closed-loop or recirculating, systems, to grow fish, sea vegetables and plants for wetlands restoration in ways that sustainably utilize natural resources –– especially water.

A Decisive Investment in Aquaculture Science

Traditional aquaculture uses large quantities of high-quality fresh or salt water that is discharged after minimal use. Water is globally recognized as a valuable and limited commodity, so we develop technologies to clean and reuse this resource to its maximum potential. Our freshwater systems have minimal discharge and our salt water systems have none.

Today, Mote’s $15 million investment has resulted in a 200-acre research park located nearly 20 miles away from any large body of water where we are developing innovative, ecologically friendly and cost-effective water filtration and animal husbandry techniques to produce high-value marine and freshwater species. This state-of-the-art aquaculture facility is replenishing snook, pioneering marine aquaponics research, investigating pompano as an aquaculture species and creating viable business models suitable for adoption by the private sector. 

Research Programs

Aquaculture Projects

SNOOK: For more than 20 years, Mote has partnered with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to grow high-quality eggs, larvae and juvenile common snook (Centropomus undecimalis) to restore wild populations. Mote was the first to mature and spawn this species in captivity in 2006. Larval research today is determining optimal diet for egg production and conditions for larval and juvenile fish growth and survival. Juvenile research also focuses on reducing cannibalism, deformities and disease. Mote’s Fisheries Ecology and Enhancement Program uses our snook to determine the optimal release protocols. Mote also successfully developed spawning technology for Pacific black snook (Centropomus nigrescens), another important game fish.

MARINE AQUAPONICS: We have partnered with University of South Florida engineers to develop a prototype marine aquaponics system to farm edible marine plants and fish together to demonstrate opportunities for local, community-based food production. We produce red drum and the edible sea vegetables sea purslane and saltwort. Solid fish waste fertilizes wetland-restoration plants grown by Aquatic Plants of Florida.

FLORIDA POMPANO & PLANTS: This popular food and sport fish has great potential as an aquaculture species. Mote’s breeding research began in 2003 and today is focused on nutrition and genetic selection strategies to develop early weaning and increase survival rates in larval fish. Juvenile and growout research is improving feeding strategies to produce market-sized fish faster without off-flavors. The system uses wetland plants to remove excess nutrients so the salt water can be reused.

FLORIDA MARINE FISHERIES ENHANCEMENT: In 2007, Mote partnered with FWC and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution (HBOI) to develop cornerstone hatcheries to produce wild species that are in decline as part of a comprehensive marine restocking program. Our technology was put into place to grow red drum in three hatcheries, allowing us to investigate inland production strategies for growing fingerlings for stock enhancement.

HATCHERIES FOR OFFSHORE FISH: In 2016 the U.S. government opened new opportunities to raise fish offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. To support sustainable use of this fish-farming frontier, we are working to pioneer land-based hatchery technology for the Gulf stock of almaco jack (aka Kona Kampachi). Our project will address improvements in captive maturation, spawning, health management and larval rearing to increase efficiency in hatchery production of fingerlings.

OIL SPILL RESEARCH: Mote scientists are studying fish at Mote Aquaculture Research Park as part of the C-IMAGE II research consortium focused on understanding impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. They aim to develop rapid health-diagnostic tests, based on sub-lethal responses in fishes, that will better predict short- and long-term impacts of oil exposure in Gulf of Mexico fishes.

About Mote Aquaculture Park

  • Construction began in 2001
  • Today, we have the largest research facility in the U.S. focused on developing recirculating aquaculture methods
  • We have more than 125,000 square feet of freshwater and marine production facilities —  about 15 acres of buildings on our 200 acre farm
  • These facilities contain state-of-the-art research, pilot- and commercial-scale recirculating production systems