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Chair’s Breakfast Recap: Mote Marine Aquaculture Park

January 26, 2012

On January 17th, members of the Tampa Bay Partnership’s CEO Direct Leadership Program and attendees of the January Chair’s Leadership Breakfast had the exciting opportunity to tour Mote Marine Aquaculture Park in Sarasota County.

Mote Marine is a prime example of Tampa Bay’s burgeoning Marine & Environmental Activities cluster, one of the four high-opportunity industry clusters identified in the Regional Business Plan for Tampa Bay for high-wage, sustainable job growth. Attendees heard from industry expert Dr. Kevan Main, Director of the Aquaculture Research & Development, on her expertise on this cluster, the work that is being done at Mote and how she’s involved in the Regional Business Plan

Among Mote’s many projects is the Sturgeon Commercial Demonstration Program developed to help test, demonstrate, and promote new technologies and practices in inland aquaculture. The project raises and sells sturgeon and sturgeon caviar with the goal of creating a financially and environmentally sustainable model for inland aquaculture. The program has proven to be successful with its products being sold along the east coast of the United States including in Whole Foods stores. To date, aquaculture as a source of seafood “has moved leaps and bounds everywhere other than in the U.S.” The nation’s current seafood trade deficit exceeds $10 billion annually. The U.S. is currently producing 5 percent of the seafood we consume; 84 percent is imported, 50 percent of which is being produced by aquaculture. Although the Tampa Bay region lacks many of the necessary conditions for coastal aquaculture, because of its affordable inland land prices, Dr. Main and the Mote team see inland aquaculture as a profitable option, particularly for struggling and unproductive citrus farms in the region and state.  

In addition to the sturgeon program, Mote conducts extensive research on a variety of marine activities. In 2001, the organization established a formal research unit for aquaculture focused on the “Blue Revolution: The Promise of Fish Farming.” The unit conducts complimentary research on the inland cultivation of snook, pompano, red drum, hard corals, long-spined sea urchins, and other species. Additionally, Mote participates in wetland conservation efforts, partnering with Sarasota-based Aquatic Plants of Florida in using fish waste to grow red mangrove, saltwort and other saltwater plants. The park also teaches young children about sustainable fishing practices. Read more about all of Mote’s research and inland aquaculture projects in 83 Degrees.

Check out Dr. Main discussing Mote’s involvement with the Regional Business Plan in this video about the plan and creating jobs in Tampa Bay:

To learn how you can become involved in events such as these, contacts Jessica Long at jlong@tampabay.org.

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