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SeaWorld working to replenish halibut population

Institute released 2,300 juvenile fish in October
SeaWorld Halibut.png
Posted at 8:14 AM, Nov 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-29 19:24:46-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Scientists at the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute are working to replenish the California Halibut population.

In October, they released 2,300 juvenile halibut into Mission Bay. Those fish were bred, born and raised at the institute. They hope it's just the start of a robust replenishment program.

"The species is pretty heavily depleted and for that reason, they're a good candidate to help boost the species," says Mark Drawbridge, the Institute's Director of the Sustainable Seafood Program.

Recent surveys show the California Halibut is down to 14 percent of what its population should be. The most severe drop has come in Southern California.

Hubbs hopes it can replicate the success it had with the White Seabass. It has released nearly 2.5 million seabass into the wild in the last 35 years.

"A lot of the process is transferable from one species to another," says Drawbridge.

The Dick Laub Fisheries Replenishment Program oversees every step of the process, from breeding to release. Drawbridge says they've seen success in every phase so far.

"Our survival rates from egg to juvenile stage are typically 20 percent or higher," he says. "Compare that to the wild, where it would be a fraction of a percent. That's more than adequate to produce tens of thousands of fish."

The next step is seeing how the halibut survive in the wild. The Institute put stainless steel trackers in each fish and will monitor them over the next few years.

The program is funded through private donations, many of which come from fisherman who need a healthy halibut population to make a living.