NEW RELEASE OF SEA BASS CREWS WORK TO RESTOCK PACIFIC POPULATION.Byline: Cecilia Chan Staff Writer
As seagulls hungrily circled overhead and ocean waves rocked the sports-fishing vessel, the crew of the Cat Special scooped up netfulls of white sea bass and dumped them over the side.
In less than half an hour, 1,500 of the fish were released into the waters just outside of Ventura County's Channel Islands Harbor, on their way to growing several times their size.
``It's real exciting,'' said Tom McCormick, director of the Channel Islands Marine Resource Institute in Port Hueneme Port Hueneme (wī'nē`mē), city (1990 pop. 20,319), Ventura co., S Calif., on the Pacific coast; founded 1870, inc. 1948. It has an artificial deep-sea harbor and is the site of a huge naval construction-battalion (Seabee) center. as he observed the release. ``It's nine months of work.''
Last week's release was the third batch of white sea bass dropped since 1999 by the institute, which is among 15 facilities from Santa Barbara Santa Barbara (săn'tə bär`brə, –bərə), city (1990 pop. 85,571), seat of Santa Barbara co., S Calif., on the Pacific Ocean; inc. 1850. to San Diego San Diego (săn dēā`gō), city (1990 pop. 1,110,549), seat of San Diego co., S Calif., on San Diego Bay; inc. 1850. San Diego includes the unincorporated communities of La Jolla and Spring Valley. Coronado is across the bay. volunteering in the ocean replenishing program.
Established in 1984 through state legislation, the Ocean Research Enhancement and Hatchery hatchery
a commercial establishment dedicated to the hatching of bird eggs to provide day old chicks and poults to the poultry industry.
the contents of unfertilized eggs. Used in petfood manufacture. Program has since released 450,000 white sea bass, and aims to release almost that many annually to replenish the waters off Southern California Southern California, also colloquially known as SoCal, is the southern portion of the U.S. state of California. Centered on the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego, Southern California is home to nearly 24 million people and is the nation's second most populated region, and keep the fishing industry strong.
The program now contributes about 5 percent of the ocean's white sea bass population.
``It was set up to determine if we can enhance wildlife stock in the ocean by hatchery introductions,'' said senior marine biologist marine biologist
specialist in the biology of marine life. Steven Crooke of the state Fish and Game Department, which administers the program.
``This is the first time anyone has taken a truly marine fish and attempted to rear it on the West Coast.''
Marine biologists attributed the fish's decline to overharvesting, habitat destruction Habitat destruction is a process of land use change in which one habitat-type is removed and replaced with another habitat-type. In the process of land-use change, plants and animals which previously used the site are displaced or destroyed, reducing biodiversity. and climatic changes in the ocean.
``They were depleted de·plete
tr.v. de·plet·ed, de·plet·ing, de·pletes
To decrease the fullness of; use up or empty out.
[Latin d ,'' said Tom Raftican, president of the United Anglers of Southern California. ``They were a fishery in peril.''
The nonprofit institute in Port Hueneme released about 350 fish in 1999 and an additional 850 last year.
Since April, the group, with the help of Oxnard College Oxnard College is a California-state funded community college located in Oxnard, California. It was established in 1975. It serves the Oxnard Plain cities of Oxnard, Camarillo, and Port Hueneme. marine biology marine biology, study of ocean plants and animals and their ecological relationships. Marine organisms may be classified (according to their mode of life) as nektonic, planktonic, or benthic. Nektonic animals are those that swim and migrate freely, e.g. students, raised the most recent batch of fingerlings in a 5,000-gallon tank.
Those released Friday were about 10 inches long and about half a pound in weight - compared with the 5-foot, 80-pound sea bass that are among the largest caught.
``We feel this is our job that we can do for the community, help grow the fish and put it back,'' McCormick said. ``We have two basic goals: one is marine enhancement and the other aspect is education.''
The institute, which is also helping to restore the endangered white abalone The white abalone, Haliotis sorenseni, is a species of abalone. The shell fish has a high poison pH but sometimes confused as the only type of abalone due to the spread of western culture and because it is the most widely consumed. , is building an outdoor tank farm that will be completed in the first months of next year.
The facility will allow it to raise up to 6,000 white sea bass a year, McCormick said. A fresh batch of fingerlings is expected at the beginning of the year.
``I thought it was a good thing,'' said Oxnard College student Camille Timan, who helped transport the fish from the institute to the boat last week. ``It's the only way to avoid fish and stuff from being extinct.''
As a fisherman, Cat Special's Capt. John Fuqua also supports the program.
``I catch more white sea bass than anyone along the coast,'' said Fuqua, who said he caught 1,400 this year. ``I want to give something back.''
It's too soon to say if the program is successful because not enough fish have been put back out in the ocean, Crooke said.
It takes three to four years for a white sea bass to reach the legal catch size of 28 inches, he said. Officials estimated a little more than 17,000 hatchery-produced white adult sea bass at the end of 2000.
Four times a year, participants from California State University, Northridge CSUN offers a variety of programs leading to bachelor's degrees in 61 fields and master's degrees in 42 fields. The university has over 150,000 alumni. It's also home to a summer musical theater/theater program known as TADW (TeenAge Drama Workshop) that leads teenagers through an , and San Diego State University San Diego State University (SDSU), founded in 1897 as San Diego Normal School, is the largest and oldest higher education facility in the greater San Diego area (generally the City and County of San Diego), and is part of the California State University system. conduct field studies to assess distribution and abundance of hatchery-reared fish.
Plus, he believes the fish are on a rebound mostly due to state regulations curtailing catch by commercial and sports fishermen, the banning of gill nets and more favorable ocean conditions that allow spawning.
``This year we will have the most released with over 100,000,'' Crooke said.
But Raftican put more weight on the program.
``We are seeing the best white sea bass fishery in two generations, and this program is clearly part of that success,'' he said.
The program operates with a $1.4 million budget, funded with $825,000 annually from stamps anglers are required to have on their fishing licenses, and other sources.
Raftican's anglers group has raised money to build pens and contributes more than 20,000 volunteer hours a year to raise and care for the white sea bass.
``The Pacific Ocean is a finite resource,'' Raftican said. ``If we continue to take fish out, sooner or later we'll get to the last one if we don't do something along the way.
``The program is a way of putting fish back and actually enhancing our Southern California fishery.''
Cat Special crew member Ian Nicholson unloads a net full of white sea bass outside the Channel Islands Harbor last week.
Joe Binoya/Special to the Daily News