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Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution's Aquaculture Division Studies Viability Of Controlled Reproduction Of Southern Flounder In Captivity

FT. PIERCE, FL - According to the National Fisheries Institute, annual profits from farmed flounder exceeded $100 million in Japan last year. With the opening of the United States' first flounder hatchery in New England, optimism is high for that kind of success to be achieved in this country. At Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, research is underway by the Aquaculture Division to develop commercial viability for the southern flounder, Paralichthys lethostigma. This work is partially funded by the 1997 Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund Marine Awards Program.

Recently, a group of government (state and federal) officials, businessmen and biologists attended the Florida Marine Aquaculture Industry Development Workshop at Harbor Branch. They identified southern flounder as one of the leading candidates for aquaculture development in Florida's marine foodfish industry. The southern flounder is considered one of the top candidate species for commercial aquaculture development in the United States because it tolerates higher temperatures and lower salinities than most other flatfish species and, therefore, can be reared in a wider variety of environments. In addition, flounder species exhibit great potential for aquaculture development due to their excellent market demand and price.

The southern flounder is a left-eyed flatfish found along the U.S. East Coast from North Carolina to Florida. It is also abundant in the Gulf of Mexico from northern Mexico to Florida's west coast, but it is absent from southern Florida. Adults are found in coastal estuarine waters throughout the year, but undergo annual spawning migrations to offshore waters in late fall to early winter. Large individuals reach 60-91cm (23-26 inches), however, the largest unofficially captured southern flounder weighed 25 pounds! Fish caught in central Florida greater than 2lbs, 17 inches tend to be females. It has been suggested by researchers at the Texas
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Contact: Susan J. Hanson
hanson@hboi.edu
561-465-2400 Ext 206
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution
15-Jun-1998


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