White Seabass Hatchery Program
The Ocean Resources Enhancement and Hatchery Program (OREHP)
The Ocean Resources Enhancement and Hatchery Program (OREHP) represents a unique partnership between California state resources agencies, public utility companies, volunteer user groups and the scientific community. The purpose of the OREHP is to investigate the potential for proactively counteracting the depletion of California's coastal marine fisheries through stock enhancement.
The OREHP began in 1982 with legislation (Assembly Bill 1414) authored by California Assemblyman Larry Stirling which funded the program's initial nine-year research effort. With the decision to expand the program came the need to reauthorize the program for an additional ten years through Assembly Bill-960, authored by Assemblywoman Dede Alpert.
The research is funded through the sale of $2.50 recreational and $25 commercial marine enhancement stamps on fishing licenses of all saltwater anglers south of Point Arguello, California. The operation of the program is managed by CDF&G with the assistance of an advisory panel consisting of academic and management agency scientists, representatives of both commercial and recreational fishing groups, and the aquaculture industry.
The first experimental release of more than 2,000 juvenile white seabass took place in October of 1986 in Mission Bay (San Diego, California). Since then, the program has released more than 300,000 juvenile white seabass into embayments and near-shore coastal areas in Southern California.
In October of 1995, the full-scale Leon Raymond Hubbard, Jr. Marine Fish Hatchery became operational, built on land donated by San Diego Gas & Electric on Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad, California. The new hatchery is capable of producing more than 350,000 juvenile white seabass annually. Capital costs for the expansion were made available as an environmental mitigation measure by the owners of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric and the cities of Anaheim and Riverside), as well as other private, corporate and foundation donors.
The OREHP is one of the few stocking programs dedicated toward assessing the biological and economic impacts of its releases, and it is the only program of its kind on the west coast of North America. Through its responsible approach and extensive, self-imposed scientific review process, the OREHP has established itself as a model for stocking programs worldwide.
In addition to its management implications, rejuvenating living marine resources will promote recreational activities such as diving and sportfishing. Saltwater sportfishing alone is enjoyed by over 500,000 southern California residents and contributes over $2 billion annually to the California economy. These recreational activities also help support a multi-billion dollar tourism industry. At the same time, increased yields of target species are expected to contribute over 600 metric tons of white seabass to the commercial fishing industry (an annual value of approximately $3 million).
Why was the white seabass selected as the target species?
The decline of white seabass between the 1950's and 1980's was dramatic, with annual sportfishing returns in California dropping from over 55,000 fish to less than 3,500 fish during this period. In 1983, the Ocean Resources Enhancement and Hatchery Program (OREHP) Advisory Panel identified the white seabass as the most appropriate species for use in an experimental stocking program. Selection criteria included the historical perspective of each species under consideration, ease of culture (the biological feasibility of artificial propagation and the environmental practicality), and the value of the fish to both commercial and recreational fishermen.
Why does this program focus on southern California?
Because the funding source for the operation of OREHP is derived from fishers north of the Mexican border and south of Point Arguello, the culture, release, and assessment work has also been confined to this region. The Pacific coastline and its many embayments represents a critical wildlife habitat, affords a significant recreational opportunity and provides for many ocean related industries. Marine coastal fisheries provide significant economic value through both commercial and recreational harvests. A 1985 study estimates that marine sportfishing contributes anywhere from $250 to $450 million annually to the San Diego community alone, with the state-wide contribution exceeding $2 billion annually.
Sportfishing Association of California
Working with the CDF&G, the SAC and their patron fishermen collected some of the first white seabass brood fish in 1981. Today, they continue to provide brood fish for the expanded hatchery and participate in the tag recovery component of the OREHP by allowing H-SWRI scientists to examine their catches for the presence of coded wire tags.
United Anglers of Southern California (UASC)
The UASC plays an important role in the "growout" facet of the OREHP and in developing its long range mission. These recreational fishermen volunteer to build and maintain cages, pens and raceways that hold the hatchery-reared fish for an additional five months. This extension of the culture process is believed to greatly increase the post-release survival by allowing the fish to grow to a larger size before entering the wild. The distribution of hatchery-reared fish to the growout facilities from San Diego to Santa Barbara also extends the geographic range of the experimental release program.
For more information on this program visit www.hswri.org.