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Paul Swacina [00:00:00] I do think that, just to get on a high horse for a second, the fact that we don't know what the release of these hatchery redfish and trout is doing to the bay system is a real point of concern for me.

Paul Swacina [00:00:14] And we don't know because we don't mark them. So when we release them into the bay, we know they're out-competing the wild fish that are smaller than them, but we don't know whether they actually participate in the recruitment offshore.

Paul Swacina [00:00:28] In some ways, I hope they don't, because that means they're degrading the gene pool of those wild fish.

Paul Swacina [00:00:36] In some ways, I hope they do, because there's probably a collapse looming in the wild fishery, because the inshore fishery redfish is being managed basically as a put-and-take.

Paul Swacina [00:00:48] They put in 5 million fingerlings and they harvest 3 million.

Paul Swacina [00:00:52] And, you know, they don't really check and see if they're wild or not.

Paul Swacina [00:00:57] They could mark the fish where you knew it was a wild fish and that fish had to be released, and you could only keep hatchery fish.

Paul Swacina [00:01:05] But it's too expensive. They don't want to clip a fin. That means you have to handle each of the fingerlings before you release them and that increases the labor cost. So, they won't do it. And, they don't genetically tag them in any way, or put a scan tag like you can on a pet to tell us what impact the hatchery fish are having on the wild fish.

Paul Swacina [00:01:26] But, with climate change and with other environmental problems, you want that adaptability that a wild population gives you.

Paul Swacina [00:01:36] If tarpon had died out, we would not be able to replace them with hatchery fish.

Paul Swacina [00:01:41] Whooping cranes - the best thing that ever happened with whooping cranes is that we didn't combine the captive-bred population with the wild population, because the original biologist, Robert Porter Allen, told us, "You'll never have a wild whooping crane if they're all captive-bred, because they don't know how to be wild unless their parents teach them".

Paul Swacina [00:02:02] And so, we've been very, very fortunate that the parents stayed around long enough to teach. And so we have a recovered population that's still wild.

Paul Swacina [00:02:10] But that isn't true for Attwater's prairie chickens. That's gone as a wild species, because they're not sustaining themselves through wild production.

Paul Swacina [00:02:19] Same thing could happen to tarpon or redfish or any of these species, if, if you think that it's okay to wait until they're on the brink and supplement it with hatchery production.

Paul Swacina [00:02:30] So, that's always been a sore spot for me, and that's because it's so evident in the salmon studies and populations that you can't sustain wild fisheries with hatchery fish. It just doesn't work.

Paul Swacina [00:02:43] And we're going to be accountable for this somewhere down the line. It's going to snap. You know, CCA and Parks and Wildlife have taken this model to generate membership and to sell fishing licenses when they should be managing the resource based on its sustainability.

Paul Swacina [00:03:01] I mean, at some point in time, you know, the lesson of sustainability is going to be applied to a lot of this stuff that should have been applied to years and years ago. When they made it a sport fish, they should have handled it on a sustainable basis, not on a hatchery put-and-take basis.

Paul Swacina [00:03:18] And, it's been a mistake and I'm hopeful that it doesn't collapse the fishery at some point, but it certainly has changed it irrevocably, forever.