Multiple wildlife organizations are joining forces in an initiative to replenish the snook population in SWFL waters.
Coastal Conservation Association Florida, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Mote Marine Laboratory have introduced a two-year initiative to help with the loss of the West Coast Snook population following the red tide environmental disaster this year.
The initiative will launch in April 2019.
Early figures project the cost to be over $440,000. The organizations are asking for the community’s help through monetary donations with the Adopt-A-Snook Program. Donations will go toward tagging, releasing, monitoring, growth and studying of snook.
The organizations will make sure red tide levels are low before releasing the new fish.
Mote’s experimental work has shown that the abundance of juvenile snook can nearly double in underutilized nursery habitats through stocking 10-month-old juveniles.
Among SWFL anglers, snook is one the most sought-after catches and a significant draw for tourist. There is a great deal of pride in catching the snook and eating it because under Florida law, it is illegal to buy or sell the fish.
Snook fish return to the same beaches, year after year, to reproduce during the summer months. However, they had to contend with red tide toxins this year, which peaked during the summer months. The environmental disaster interrupted the snook spawning along beaches in SWFL, such as Gasparilla and the Little Gasparilla Islands.
Beyond a capital infusion from the community, the organizations are asking anglers to contribute to a marketing campaign and release the trophies they capture. The Coastal Conservation Association Florida has launched the, "Release Them For Tomorrow," campaign to support snook growth through catch and release fishing.
Anglers fishing for snook, or soapfish as they are fondly nicknamed, are encouraged to share their catch via social media photos with the hashtag, #ReleaseThemForTomorrow.
“It is going to take everyone doing their part," Brian Gorski said in a news release, who is the executive director at the Coastal Conservation Association Florida, "to get our fisheries back to health."