At a time in our history when carbon footprints, global warming and animal extinction are spoken of every day, many scientists, organizations and local volunteers are finding themselves devoted to battling these conditions as their presence becomes obvious.
The Ocean Resources Enhancement and Hatchery Program (OREHP) in association with the Marina del Rey Anglers and other Southern California fishing clubs continues to show great progress in the world of conservation and the enhancement of depleted natural stocks in our local waters.
“In the early 1980s a sport-caught white sea bass was rare, but now we are frequently experiencing catches of fish up to 50 pounds,” said Marina del Rey Angler Larry Brown, who is very involved in the program. “Thanks to OREHP and the elimination of commercial gill-netting and long-lining, which had decimated the Southern California white sea bass fishery, the number of white sea bass in the wild are returning to 1940 and 1950 levels.
“White sea bass of 25 to 35 pounds are frequently caught, and trophy fish in the 40-pound range are no longer a rarity.”
Brown has been an advocate of the program since its inception in 1986 and as recently as last month saw the release of another 4,248 fish for a total of 70,435 juvenile white sea bass that have come from the grow-out pen that sits in Burton Chace Park in Marina del Rey.
The Ocean Resources Enhancement and Hatchery Program has taken a species that was fading away and brought it back to solid respectable numbers.
“These white sea bass were the healthiest, fastest-growing fish we have ever seen, and spent the least time in our grow-out facilities,” said Darrell Pickford, who runs the Marina del Rey Anglers white sea bass facilities. “Our survival rate was 94 percent, which is also an excellent measure for our success.”
In addition to the replenishment of white sea bass for the betterment of recreational fishing, the program is very much a scientific effort that aims to address the broader issue of protecting marine resources in an ever-expanding technologically- driven world. Ocean Resources Enhancement and Hatchery Program directors are optimistic about how the enhancement plan can help sustain fisheries as similar efforts have in other parts of the world.
“In Japan, to take just one example, nearly 70 marine species are supplemented, some at very high levels,” said Dennis Hedgecock of the University of Southern California Department of Biological Sciences in a published grant.
Scientists at Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute implant each juvenile white sea bass with a coded wire tag in its cheek muscle. The tags identify each batch of fish uniquely and help scientists evaluate the success of the study. To date the program has raised and released over 1.4 million juvenile white sea bass.
Both the Ocean Resources Enhancement and Hatchery Program and the Marina del Rey Anglers encourage local fishermen to participate in this ongoing project by turning in white sea bass heads to a shop or facility along the Southern California coast that is involved in the sea bass hatchery effort.
“As part of the tag recovery effort we are encouraging all anglers to turn in their white sea bass heads to one of the many collection centers that exist at most boat landings, bait docks and many beach area tackle shops,” said Brown. “It’s good for science; it’s good for marine conservation and fisheries, and it’s potentially very profitable for the fisherman.” Brown is referring to the incentive strategy that is currently in place where every angler becomes eligible for $500 for turning in a white sea bass head for the semi-annual drawing sponsored by the Ocean Resources Enhancement and Hatchery Program. Upon turning in the head they receive a number and await a drawing where they can win the cash prize.
For more information on where to turn in white sea bass heads, www.hswri.org/ or call (877) 7283972 (877-SAVE-WSB).