BP Disaster Environment

Hatchery one step closer to reality

December 7, 2013

Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard announced yesterday in Panama City that several Florida Panhandle counties are slated for about $90 million worth of early restoration projects to address areas impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil-spill.

A total of 28 projects are slated to benefit an eight county area in the Florida Panhandle that Governor Rick Scott designated as hugely affected by the oil spill. The biggest amount – $18 million – will go to Escambia County.

The money is for a hatchery that Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will be build and manage on land donated by the City of Pensacola on Bruce Beach. In 2011, when the Pensacola City Council approved the deal, they were told by the mayor that the job would create an estimated 80 jobs at the hatchery, through research, fish farming, commercial fishing and other related fishing industry feeder jobs.

Before any of that is finalized, the projects will go through a 60-day public comment period that runs through February 4: one in Pensacola on January 28 and another on January 29 in Panama City.

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  • GREG WHIBBS December 13, 2013 at 9:46 am

    You are correct in saying that area is an industrial waterfront. However, would it also be true that the area in proximity to Joe Patti’s would be a perfect location, given the potential for a low cost fish food supply? And, would not the industrial locale lend itself to the construction of a facility geared more towards an environmentally positive use? Salt water aquaculture is a growing field in this country, potentially providing an additional sustainable food source, while relieving stress on the natural resource. Pensacola could be on the front of the curve.

  • Eric December 13, 2013 at 2:38 am

    it’s obvious that the 10 workers would be the full-time employees and the 70-80 is an estimated total impact. It might or might not be wrong, but it’s not a loophole.

    and that property isn’t prime as long as the industrial garbage is sitting on the waterfront next to Joe Patti’s.

  • GREG WHIBBS December 11, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    If the intended species to be hatched are redfish, and cobia, there should be no problems with the habitat. Redfish have made an outstanding comeback in our area, post net ban, and cobia are a near-shore Gulf fish that would greatly benefit from the additional numbers of hatchlings. Couple those factors with the construction dollars and long term potential for a reasonable workforce, and it’s a winning combination.

  • Christian Wagley December 9, 2013 at 10:44 am

    There’s a big difference between freshwater systems that are closed, and marine/estuarine systems like local bays and the Gulf that are totally open. Yes, freshwater hatcheries are much more widespread but they have also created a host of issues. Many supply “put and take” fisheries where they raise fish big enough to catch; that won’t be the case here. If the hatchery here goes through then the juveniles will have to make it through a host of obstacles before big enough to catch and reproduce, including man-made ones such as diminished water quality and severe lack of habitat.

  • jeeperman December 7, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    So you found one state where a fish hatchery did not perform as envisioned.
    Now go ask the State of Michigan how successful their fish hatcheries have been.

  • Christian Wagley December 7, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    The project is listed as creating 8 – 10 jobs. Here’s what I’ve posted about the hatchery elsewhere:

    “The proposed fish hatchery is highly questionable based on experience with hatcheries across the nation and the conditions in our local waterways. Several of us have been researching this issue and have found that hatcheries have a very mixed record and the science is not clear that they contribute to restoring fisheries at all, and in fact have created problems. In one area of the Pacific Northwest the hatchery salmon that returned to spawn cost $9000 per fish, because the habitat was not restored first–they just bred and released fish and the habitat could not support them. Fish hatcheries really can be considered experimental, with no guarantee of any positive impacts. And with the highly-degraded condition of our local bays there is little chance of hatchery fish succeeding in Pensacola or Perdido Bays–both of which are missing the habitat needed to support fish (90% seagrass beds are gone).

    We have spoken to a number of ecologists who study our waterways and also to the director of a sportfishermen’s group in south Florida–all agree that restoring water quality and habitat will bring back far more sportfish than a hatchery could ever do. Others are saying that for a City desperate for tax dollars to give away prime waterfront property for $1/year for a project creating only 8 – 10 jobs is a clear loser economically. We look forward to more information coming out as the City Council and others have a full discussion on the merits of this proposal. There is a tremendous risk of spending $18 million on a hatchery that could have little if any benefit; on the other hand, we know that restoring habitat and water quality is a proven way to increase stocks of sportfish.”

    I hope the Council will take a much harder look at this proposal, as they were given very little information by the State when they approved this back in 2011. They were rushed by the State to immediately vote to approve lease negotiations for the hatchery or they would lose the project to Walton County. That’s hardly a recipe for full consideration of the project.

  • CJ Lewis December 7, 2013 at 10:29 am

    Today’s PNJ mentions 10 people eventually employed at the hatchery. It would be interesting to know more about the other alleged 70 jobs to include seeing some evidence that they are real. For us non-hatcheries experts, is “5 million fish annually” a lot? It might be a good homework assignment for the Environmental Advisory Board to engage in some evidence-based research to vet all the claims to include if Bruce Beach is the best location in the Pensacola Bay Area for such a facility. Chasidy’s comment above to include the … part suggests questions that may need to be raised, even in an election year.

    A fish hatchery that may or may not really be needed hardly seems the highest and best use of some of the most valuable city-owned land. The City of Pensacola already seems to have its fill of tax-exempt property especially downtown in the money-started Urban Core Community Redevelopment District. Would it make more sense for the hatchery to be further up Escambia Bay closer to UWF?
    I doubt the hatchlings will care whether they are city residents or non-city residents.

  • Chasidy December 7, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Much has changed about the proposal since Council approved the lease…