Putting blackened redfish on the menu back in the 1970s almost helped land the popular game fish on another list, for protected species, had it not been for an ambitious fisheries management initiative that included development of the Texas marine fisheries hatchery system.
Providing a jump-start to resurrect a red drum fishery depleted by commercial fishing pressure was the impetus for constructing Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s first marine fisheries hatchery, the CCA-CPL Marine Development Center, now celebrating its 30th anniversary.
In 1980, the Gulf Coast Conservation Association (now CCA Texas) announced plans to partner with Central Power and Light Company and TPWD to build the world’s largest red drum hatchery at the Barney Davis Power Plant in Corpus Christi.
CCA provided funding for the construction of the original hatchery as well as the expansion phase in the late 1980s. Much of this money was used as state match towards a $10 million dollar U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sport Fish Restoration grant for construction of the hatchery expansion. The hatchery facility became operational in 1982.
Since 1983, 624 million hatchery-reared red drum fingerlings have been released in Texas waters. The CCA Marine Development Center can produce between 30 and 50 percent of the 24 million fingerlings released annually along the coast. It is also one of the premier marine aquaculture research facilities in the United States and is well known to scientists around the world.
“The recovery of red drum is the result of a combination of management strategies, including fisheries monitoring, protection by banning commercial sale and prohibiting netting, and through the hatchery stocking program,” said Mike Ray, TPWD Coastal Fisheries Division Deputy Director. “
In recent years, coastal fish hatcheries have increased emphasis on spotted seatrout and southern flounder population recovery, with 65 million spotted seatrout fingerlings and more than 20,000 southern flounder fingerlings stocked.
In addition, hatchery facilities remain well positioned to respond to disasters such as freezes, harmful algal blooms, hypoxia, and pollution events that can result in significant losses to recreationally important fish populations.
The hatchery system relies on significant contributions from dedicated sportsmen’s organizations like CCA Texas and the Saltwater-fisheries Enhancement Association (SEA).
The SEA has been an important partner to the hatchery program by providing funding for projects such as rearing pond improvements (i.e., adding electrical outlets to operate aeration paddle wheels) and laboratory equipment.
In recent years, CCA Texas has provided critical funding to help develop large-scale methods to culture southern flounder for stocking into coastal waters. During the past two years, the CCA Texas as spearheaded by the Mid-Coast Chapter donated $170,000 to construct two fishing piers at this hatchery for education and outreach activities.