BILXOI, Miss. – Over 2,000 red snapper were released into the Gulf Coast Friday at an artificial reef just south of Ship Island by Representatives from the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) and the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research lab. The fish were spawned at USM’s Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center in Ocean Springs nearly three months ago as part of a research program sponsored by MDMR and the release was an effort to fortify the population of the popular fish in coastal waters.
“Red snapper is an economically important reef fish that is a popular target for anglers in the northern Gulf of Mexico,” said Kelly Lucas, chief scientific officer for MDMR. “Currently red snapper is under intensive management with severe restrictions on fishing. Stock enhancement, or the release of cultured juveniles, can potentially provide an additional management tool to aid in red snapper fishery management.”
“It gives us a chance to monitor them because we release them on natural and man-made habitats that are less than 20 miles from the Coast,” said Michael Lee, who manages the hatchery at the aquaculture center for MDMR.
According to Lee, this was the first of three red snapper releases that will take place before the end of the year. By the end of December, about 10,000 red snapper will be released.
Earlier this year, Mississippi’s red snapper season for recreational fishermen was reduced from 40 to nine days because of a concern from the federal government that the population of red snapper may be too low.