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Efforts to save Florida’s shoal bass population show signs of improvement

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According to the researchers, the schooling bass released by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee in May 2022 has a significant impact on conservation efforts.

After Hurricane Michael nearly destroyed 90% of the Chipola River bass population in 2018, FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and Freshwater Fisheries Management Division released 3 300 genetically pure bass.

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According to a press release, these are fish from hatcheries at the Blackwater Fisheries Research and Development Center.

The goal of releasing these hatchlings is to supplement and enhance the species’ population, FWC said.

“The population of bass in the Chipola River has become a top priority for fisheries biologists in the northwest Florida region since Hurricane Michael,” said Andy Strickland, fisheries biologist at FWRI.

Recent samples in September show the hatchlings have reached 4 to 6 inches in length and that 65% of current young fish in the river came from fish released into the river earlier this year, the statement said.

The Chipola River is home to Florida’s only known breeding population of sea bass, and FWC biologists said they plan to stockpile additional shoal sea bass in the spring of 2023, with the goal of eventually rebuilding the population to pre-storm levels. Hurricane Michael.

“These cooperative management, hatchery and research actions for the conservation of this unique species of Northwest Florida seabass illustrate the effectiveness of the FWC’s efforts to preserve a species whose conservation is most needed,” said Christopher Paxton, biologist and regional fisheries administrator for the DFFM.

FWC said it will continue to monitor population levels through DNA analysis and determine if additional storage will be needed to contribute to the overall population deficit.

To learn more about the FWC’s freshwater fisheries conservation work, Click here.


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