OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) – What a disaster can take away, science and hard work can help give back. On Wednesday, 67,000 spotted sea trout were released into Davis Bayou in Ocean Springs, and the timing couldn’t be better.
Before the babies are released, they have to be prepared for their new home.
“We want to make sure that the fish, or the fingerlings, are accustomed to the new conditions before they go back out into the water,” said Angelos Apeitos, hatchery manager at the Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center in Ocean Springs. “So, we don’t want to put them in water that’s too fresh.”
The amount of fish released each year is determined by the Department of Marine Resources and the Gulf Coast Research Lab. While it is a regularly scheduled release, officials said it’s even more timely now especially after the Bonnet Carré Spillway disaster. Apeitos said it’s even more important in Hancock County, the closest body of water to the spillway’s freshwater intrusion.
“This is the second release we’ve done in the last past three months,” he said. “It’s probably more prudent to do this for the western part of the state. We’ve already released several thousand fish at the western part of the state.”
So far, about 170,000 spotted sea trout have been released there and all grown in USM’s Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center in Ocean Springs.
“This is an important role to give anglers the opportunity to go out and catch these fish,” said Andrew Gima, aquaculture life support systems specialist. “Sometimes mother nature takes a little beating, and the hard work that we put in at the aquaculture center can kind of offset those impacts.”
More research is being done to determine how much damage was done, but Apeitos said science is ready to help.
“If we see that the Bonnet Carré Spillway effects impact the fishery in an adverse manner, we have the technology and the tools to be able to pick this up, release more fish and give the fishery a kickstart so it will recover by itself,” he said.
Officials aren’t certain what the survival rate for these fish is.