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From Basic Science to the Fishing Line

From Basic Science to the Fishing Line
Studying the basic science of redfish led to recovery of dwindling populations and better opportunities for Texas anglers.redfish-kids
Our society has always provided considerable resources to the research and development of new technologies.

In fact, our country stands head and shoulders above many other countries not only because of our ability to perform basic research, but also in our ability to convert the research, with an unmatched efficiency, to solutions.

Asking a question and finding potential answers is only part of the equation. Often finding an answer to one question only leads to many more new questions that had not been considered prior to the basic research. The more vexing question arising from the results of a scientific study is how the information will be applied by our society.

Ask your average fisherman their opinion on the 1985 publication of the paper “Diel periodicity of spawning in sciaenids”[PDF] in the scientific journal Marine Ecology, and you will more than likely get a blank stare.

People fish for many reasons, but understanding the science of fishing is low on the list. But appreciating the benefits of the science is likely at the top of the list of their reasons as to why they keep coming back. This paper is considered one of several watershed publications that are responsible for the large number of redfish (a sciaenid fish) we now have swimming in Texas Gulf waters and tugging on our fishing lines.

When Walter Fondren, the founding chairman of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA), and others met years ago with a strong concern regarding a decline in the redfish population, they defined a societal problem. Their efforts directed basic research performed at The University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute (UTMSI) by Joan and Scott Holt and Connie Arnold to determine the viability of spawning redfish in captivity.

The scientists’ groundbreaking, world-class, basic research led to some fascinating results and the publication of a series of scientific articles that continue to serve as guides on how to successfully breed fish in captivity. This defined the solution to the problem.

Following the chain of events, the solution was implemented through considerable fundraising efforts and the application of the funds by the Coastal Conservation Association and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that has given us one of the most successful wildlife restocking programs in the history of the world. I have seen in my lifetime the ability to catch reds go from almost zero to having it considered odd to not catch at least a few redfish during an outing (unless you’re my brother-in-law).

The application of the basic research that few fishermen will care to understand into results that all fishermen appreciate is an incredible story of how our society will continue to lead in the efforts to protect our natural resources and provide solutions to the questions we have yet to ask.

When considering the fantastic results we’ve seen from applying the foundational research on redfish through the efforts CCA and UTMSI, it is truly exciting to think about the research currently being sponsored and performed at the CCA/UTMSI mariculture laboratory in Port Aransas on snook, flounder, ling, speckled trout and many other species.

This article is modified from an article originally published in the Sep/Oct 2008 issue of Currents magazine from CCA.

Photo courtesy Mary Ann Frishman, www.frishmangallery.com.
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Friday, 18 September 2020

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