By Gina Russo
The Stock Enhancement Research Facility (SERF) hosts several outreach and education programs annually to educate youth, students, and stakeholders about marine aquaculture, fisheries stock enhancement research, and the benefits of Sport Fish Restoration.
Aquaculture in the Classroom is a state-wide program designed for students from fifth grade through college. SERF provides participating schools juvenile hatchery-reared red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) along with starter feed and technical advice on how to raise the fingerlings. Students are given the opportunity to design their own aquaculture (fish-raising) systems, perform daily husbandry (care) and conduct research projects such as salinity tolerance tests, feed studies, and water quality/chemistry investigations. This year nine schools and one Marine Life Center participated in this program.
Stock enhancement research internships and limited volunteer opportunities are available to university students and stakeholders interested in marine aquaculture and research. Student interns and volunteers assist hatchery biologists with raising red drum, zooplankton, and phytoplankton.
Tours and special opportunity fishing events are provided upon staff availability to give guests an opportunity to learn about hatchery operations and to catch marine sport fish from the 2-acre detention pond. This catch-and-release-only fishing pond, which is a settling pond for treating hatchery waste water, is home to many different species such as black drum, red drum, snook, spotted seatrout, tarpon, pinfish, toadfish and even blue crabs.
Staff also partner with angling clubs and nonprofit organizations to host Fish Camps during the summer which includes a presentation about the hatchery and hands-on instruction on how to become ethical anglers and stewards of our natural resources. This is followed by lunch onsite and a special opportunity fishing experience. This summer, fish campers from the Florida Aquarium, Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation, and Tampa Police Department RICH House kids participated in these camps.