Few people know that North Carolina has a fledgling but highly successful southern flounder hatchery program, and therefore few know how at risk it is due to state educational budget cuts. That is a shame, because the hatchery program is one of the best examples you will find of NC schools and NC fisheries advocates combining to enhance the future.
The South Brunswick HS Aquaculture Program in Brunswick County, NC is one of the few saltwater hatchery programs in the state. Its goal is to increase the population of southern flounder in SE NC while educating young students about the importance of the flounder fishery and fisheries management in general.
In fact, state officials from Texas have been so impressed they are actually using the state-of-the-art NC hatchery’s information to help them with their flounder efforts. It makes you wish more NC fishermen and fisheries management officials would recognize what a great thing is going on in Brunswick County and help support it.
The hatchery efforts are sponsored by Fish For Tomorrow, a Not-For Profit organization which supports fisheries stock enhancement through aquaculture, creative reef placement and public education. Tim Barefoot runs that effort, which is in turned helped by donations of flounder embryos from UNC-Wilmington and NC State University.
“We’re highly optimistic about the southern flounder’s future with UNCW and NC State’s involvement,” said Barefoot. “Without those embryos we’d have no program. Wild southern flounder fingerlings are hatched offshore and less than 90% even make it into our waters. The few that do are often preyed upon due to the local explosion of pinfish and other small fish that eat them. Our hatchery program is a way to combat that problem.”
The NC Coastal Conservation Association has also donated money and support to the program.
Alton Raynor, the President of the Cape Fear Chapter of the CCA, is a big advocate for the hatchery.
“This program has a southern flounder hatchery element that gives high school students a taste of the aquaculture vocation and helps prepare those who wish to further their education in college in professions such as marine biology,” says Raynor. “Aquaculture is a growing tool in NC to not only supplement wild stocks of fish in NC waters, but to also help meet the demand for seafood, that will help lessen overfishing of those same wild stocks.”
However, funds for the hatchery in the future are in doubt due to the many budget cuts in education coming from the state. That is why more help is needed.
The Aquaculture Program at SBHS is teaming with the Dance Program to hold a fundraising golf tournament on September 24th, at the Saint James Golf Plantation near Southport. You can get information for the golf tournament here.
For flounder anglers, Barefoot suggests participation in the Annual Flat Bottom Girls Flounder Tournament held the first Saturday in November at Dockside Marina in Wrightsville Beach.
Despite the name, the tournament is not a ladies-only tournament but refers to the fact that large female flounder are targeted so they can be brought in alive. The proceeds benefit flounder aquaculture research at UNCW and NC State University and the female flounder go into the program to donate eggs to the hatchery.
“I highly encourage flounder anglers to help us by fishing the tournament,” says Barefoot.
You can find out more about how you can help by calling Tim Barefoot at 910-264-9118 or by emailing at [email protected]
To join the Cape Fear Chapter of the CCA contact Al Raynor at [email protected]
If you want to see the hatchery program at work for yourself, the program will be doing a public southern flounder release in Davis Canal at 40th St, Oak Island, on Sept 16th. Individuals who are interested in the program are encouraged to attend.
For more Carolina fisheries managment articles see my blog A Dash of Salty