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Marine Science Institute's redfish studies eye sustainability

Posted at 8:58 AM, Oct 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-31 09:58:15-04

One of the most popular game fish in the Gulf Coast is sometimes called red drum, redfish, bull red, or simply, reds.

Right now scientists in Port Aransas are calling them research.

The University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas is studying the ship channel, which is the heart of Port Aransas' fisheries' spawning and productivity.

“One of the main players are the redfish, and so we want to get out there and look at what environmental conditions, what sort of habit, which sort of tidal cycles, what is driving the spawning and productivity of red fish and how do we maintain that so we can maintain the fishery long into the future,” said University of Texas Marine Science Institute Assistant Professor of Fishery Ecology Brad Erisman.

If we want to maintain red fish to catch for ourselves, our kids, and long into the future, we need to maintain the spawning cycles.

“All that spawning is happening right now at the ship channel so we need to keep a healthy spawning population so that new eggs and larvae and new baby red fish settle into the bay, and they grow up to be all the fish we want to catch a few years down the line,” said Erisman.

At this time of year, red fish are spawning in the channel between Mustang Island and San Jose Island.

“By the time you add all this all up and the number of red fish that are out there, there could be 10 trillion red fish eggs in our channel between September, October and November," said University of Texas Marine Science Institute Director of Fisheries and Mariculture Lab Lee Fuiman. "And each of those eggs are millimeters in diameter, but they are packed with nutritions that are important to all the animals that are out there in this ecosystem

This gives researchers a great opportunity to study the eggs red fish produce.

“We want to figure out how those eggs fit in to the food web that supports the red fish and all the other marine animals that we have here,” said Fuiman.

Tides carry the offspring into an estuary where fish spend their first few years and are heavily targeted by anglers.

“So our goal is to figure out how important are these eggs to the ecosystem, and then if something happens that prevents red drum from spawning or reduce the number of eggs they produce we will have a better idea of the consequences of that might be,” said Fuiman.