The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Marine Fisheries Enhancement Center has been working with school administrators, teachers, and students to bring Aquaculture and Stock Enhancement Research into the classroom for more than two decades.
The Aquaculture in the Classroom program is designed for students ranging from fifth grade through college. The program teaches students the basic principles of aquaculture, marine research, and how stock enhancement plays a role in supporting Florida’s marine fisheries.
Over the past two years, the FWC has partnered with Duke Energy Mariculture Center and the Coastal Conservation Association who generously provided hatchery-reared red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) fingerlings to several participating schools along with the Energy and Marine Center in Pasco County.
Through this innovative partnership, hatchery-reared red drum fingerlings, starter feed and technical advice on how to raise fingerlings in the classroom are provided to schools participating in the Aquaculture in the Classroom program.
Information on system development and grant opportunities are also provided. At the end of the school year, the fingerlings are harvested and transferred to another facility or returned to the FWC to be used for outreach and education exhibits.
In the Aquaculture in the Classroom program, FWC biologists work with teachers to develop curriculum that meets Florida Sunshine State Standards and provides students the opportunity to design aquaculture (fish-raising) systems, perform daily animal husbandry (care) routines and conduct research projects, such as salinity tolerance tests, feed studies and water quality/chemistry investigations.
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Since this program began in 2001, more than 25 Florida schools from Miami to Pensacola have successfully reared red drum in the classroom.
Currently, seven schools are participating statewide, and 500 red drum fingerlings were distributed. Some schools and educational facilities, including the Energy and Marine Center in Pasco County, can rear fish all year round in recirculating aquaculture systems.
To learn more about the program, or to refer a teacher or school, contact Gina.Russo@MyFWC.com.