Biologists say program critical to Gulf

By Harlan Kirgan/The Mississippi Press

OCEAN SPRINGS — About 20,000 striped bass have been released along the coast as part of program to study and restore the fish to the coastal waters.

The fish are native to the Gulf of Mexico and inland rivers, said Dave Rose, interim hatchery manager at the Lyman Fish Hatchery.

“We feel that this is kind of critical to the program. It is not Atlantic sea-run striped bass, it is Gulf-raised sea-run striped bass,” Ross said.

The 6-inch, tagged fish were released this past week in a second phase to placing hatchery-raised bass into local waters. The first phase was the release of more than 120,000, 2-inch fingerlings in June.

The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources’ pond-raised striped bass program is conducted in concert with research at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, said Rose.

The GCRL program had relied on tank-raised striped bass, but that program was wiped out by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he said.

The hatchery is helping senior research scientist Larry Nicholson of Gulf Coast Research Laboratory continue striped bass studies by raising fish on a scale that wasn’t possible at the Lab’s site, said Rose.

“This is the first time we’ve been tagging out of Lyman,” he said. “The tagging is primarily for research.”

The release of tagged fish allows researchers to track the fish’s movements and growth rates, said Rose.

A toll-free number is to be set up to report the fish, which should reach the 15-inch size limit in about three years, said Rose.

Nicholson said striped bass ranged from Florida to Texas in the Gulf, but nearly disappeared back in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

“It is a multitude of probable causes,” said Nicholson as to why the striped bass numbers declined.

“One of the major factors we have to consider is the DDT level during that period of time,” said Nicholson. “It really hit them hard. And also impoundments of their spawning streams. These fish are kind of like salmon, in the fact their life cycle requires them to utilize the salt estuarine environment and then move up into the fresh water to spawn.”

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Information from: The Mississippi Press, http://www.gulflive.com