Fisheries Ecology & Enhancement
Advancing science to support abundant, productive fish populations
We develop innovative tools and methods to help natural resource managers and others replenish and monitor fisheries. Our responsible stock enhancement approaches focus on improving fish survival and promoting important connections between fish and their ecosystems, and they are designed to benefit fish populations, habitats, fishers and the economies that depend on fisheries. Our projects involve both traditional and technological monitoring of fish and fisheries, from seine sampling in the tidal creeks to electronic monitoring of coastal fisheries.
Saltwater recreational fishing contributes $8 billion annually to Florida’s economy, and in general, productive coastal waters help communities thrive by providing economic stability and recreational value. However, fisheries in Florida and beyond face significant challenges, including degraded habitat, reduced water quality, overfishing of some species, harmful algal blooms and more.
Fisheries enhancement (via stocking) involves raising juvenile fish in hatcheries and releasing them into the environment strategically, to improve fishery yields and/or benefit species conservation. To be effective, stock enhancement must be done responsibly and be driven by the best available science.
Mote scientists are working to resolve critical uncertainties about marine (saltwater) stock enhancement and help foster development of responsible and effective approaches to:
• Improve survival of hatchery-reared and wild fish to augment fishery yields and restore depleted marine fish populations
• Apply non-invasive monitoring techniques that can help with threatened and endangered species conservation.
• Advance basic knowledge about wild fish stocks and their ecology.
• Aid in restoration of natural ecosystems and improvement of artificial habitats to support existing fisheries or establish new ones.
• Respond rapidly to mitigate the impacts of ecological emergencies such as harmful algal blooms and cold stuns that cause major fish kills.
Our research combines established principles of fisheries ecology with novel investigative methods, particularly focusing on a model sportfish species—common snook—in southwest Florida ecosystems. Our discoveries offer insights not only for enhancing this vital fishery, but for multiple other fisheries along with populations targeted for conservation.
• To improve the outcomes of fisheries enhancement, we investigate the impacts of factors such as release habitat, timing of releases, magnitude of releases, fish size, acclimation measures, and conditioning of the fish before release on the impact of stocking activities. Applying what we learn from this enables “stocking strategically.”
• We release hatchery-reared juvenile snook following a unique method that allows us to conduct timely assessments of their post-release survival, and in turn, develop statistical models of the potential influences on their survival. Each released snook is tagged with a passive integrated transponder (PIT tag) that is detected by antenna arrays on shore. These antenna arrays allow for fine-scale, timely detection of fish presence and movements after release.
• By treating released snook as ecological probes, we work to identify ecosystem features that are important to protect or restore based on their ability to support healthy fish and fisheries. In particular, we focus on tidal creek systems in Sarasota County, Florida—some of these creeks have the capacity to support functional fish communities while others are losing this capacity because of human-driven modification. By releasing ecological probes into altered systems, we aim to identify areas that may benefit from naturalization.
• While snook use tidal creeks as “nurseries” (juvenile habitat) and overwintering sites, adult snook leave the creeks, move into coastal waters and spawn (breed) at specific bay passes and beaches. Mote scientists are monitoring these movements between shelter and feeding sites by fitting snook with acoustic tags that are detected by underwater receivers strategically placed in the environment. These efforts are part of the Sarasota Coast Acoustic Network (SCAN), a multi-institution team of scientists who use acoustic tags and receivers to monitor species ranging from snook to spotted eagle rays to sharks.
Many fisheries around the world—including sportfish and seafood species—are struggling to keep pace with the pressures of our growing human population. We strive to assist developing fisheries enhancement programs around the world by engaging together in research to develop specific guidelines for strategic stocking and effectively respond to these critical challenges. Mote’s Fisheries Ecology & Enhancement Program works closely with national and international partners and with Mote’s Marine & Freshwater Aquaculture Research Program, which advances sustainable methods for farming animals and plants in water—known as aquaculture. Our partnerships allow the Fisheries Ecology & Enhancement program to investigate new species for stock enhancement research, especially species that have never been mass produced before in hatcheries, and to pursue new avenues to promote responsible stock enhancement research and development.
Another key local partner in our fisheries ecology and enhancement research is the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI), which manages a Stock Enhancement Research Facility (SERF). This unique partnership has enabled a team effort in developing, testing and evaluating the effectiveness of stock enhancement as a fishery management tool in Florida. The researchers and fishery managers working together in this partnership are providing the scientific information needed to enable a responsible, adaptive-management approach in conducting and refining stock enhancement in Florida.
We share fisheries science and sustainable fishing practices with our communities by working with local fishing groups, hosting kids’ fishing clinics in partnership with Mote’s Education team, and partnering with stakeholder groups, such as the Sarasota Bay Fisheries Forum, to connect community members with fisheries management and research.
Advancing science to support abundant, productive fish populations
Long term study of dolphin populations in Sarasota Bay.
PERC is dedicated to improving stock assessment, management and sustainability of highly migratory fishes in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico
The Red Tide Institute at Mote Marine Laboratory leads Florida red tide mitigation and control research.
10TH FSU-MOTE INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON FISHERIES ECOLOGY AND 6TH INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON STOCK ENHANCEMENT AND SEA RANCHING
Rehabilitation hospital to provide provide state-of-the-art critical care & chronic care for stranded sea turtles and dolphins.
Studying sharks, skates and stingrays as laboratory animal models for basic & applied research
Seeking to develop systems and techniques to grow coral and other reef species.
Coral diseases are one of the greatest threats to reefs worldwide.
Studying the impacts of nutrients and physical parameters in riverine, estuarine and coastal environments.
The Stranding Investigations Program (SIP) provides 24-hour response to sick, injured and deceased marine mammals & sea turtles.
Bottom-dwelling organism response to environmental disturbance.
Investigating how marine & freshwater chemicals impact public health
Investigating the source, fact & effects of toxins in the environment
Contaminant detection of toxic substances.
Basic and applied research on the health and immune systems of marine vertebrates
Using innovative ocean technology to accomplish interdisciplinary scientific goals
The Sharks and Rays Conservation Research Program is dedicated to studying the biology, ecology and conservation of sharks, skates and rays.
Study of how fish interact with their habitats & how disturbances influence these interactions.
Study responses of ecologically important species to projected levels of ocean acidification.
Understanding processes and environmental factors that influence coral reef health.
Studying manatee behavioral ecology, distribution, habitat use, genetics, and population status in Florida.
Studying habitats and trends in turtle nesting to conserve Sea Turtles.
Developing technologies to produce fish & invertebrates to meet growing demand for seafood & fishing stocks.
Studying the physical, biological, geological & chemical processes that distribute nutrients and other chemical species in the ocean
Study of the Ocean's Phytoplankton Community
A Mote-FWC partnership to develop prevention, control and mitigation technologies and approaches that will decrease Florida red tide impacts