Ocean Resources Enhancement and Hatchery Program Evaluation Report Now Available

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has released the Evaluation Report for the Ocean Resources Enhancement and Hatchery Program (OREHP).

The report concludes that while the OREHP has significantly contributed to the scientific understanding of marine enhancement science, it has not substantially increased the abundance of legal-sized White Seabass, resulting in less than one percent contribution to recreational and commercial fisheries catches. The information generated by the program, to date, can be used as a learning experience for enhancement of wild populations, whether focusing on White Seabass or other species. CDFW will use this information along with public input to guide decisions regarding the future of the OREHP.

The OREHP was established by the California Legislature in 1983 to conduct research into the restoration and enhancement of marine finfish species populations important to California for their sport and commercial fishing value. The program, the longest-running experimental marine fish stock enhancement program in the United States, is managed by CDFW with the assistance of the Ocean Resources Enhancement Advisory Panel. The OREHP includes a marine fish hatchery operated by Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute (HSWRI), and 10 growout pens operated by volunteer organizations throughout Southern California. White Seabass are raised at the hatchery and transported to the growout pens for their eventual release along the coast.

In 2015, CDFW contracted California Sea Grant (CASG) to coordinate the first formal, comprehensive review of the program’s progress toward achieving its goals and objectives. With guidance from CDFW and HSWRI, CASG recommended a science advisory committee comprised of nine scientists from around the country to evaluate the program. The committee, appointed by CDFW Director, Charlton H. Bonham, included members with expertise in a wide variety of disciplines, including aquaculture, fish pathology, population dynamics, genetics and water quality.

During the two-year review process, the committee assessed the hatchery’s functionality and efficiency, considered alternative hatchery uses, assessed environmental impacts, documented scientific accomplishments, assessed economic costs and benefits, and evaluated the extent to which the OREHP has succeeded in enhancing wild White Seabass stocks. The report details the committee’s evaluation process, including development of scientific review criteria, summary and synthesis of all available OREHP data, and identification of key findings, gaps in information, and recommendations for better meeting the program’s objectives and goals.

CDFW will conduct public scoping meetings in Southern California to receive comments on the evaluation and discuss potential next steps for the OREHP in early 2018.

Media Contacts:
Valerie Taylor, CDFW Marine Region, (562) 342-7170
Kathryn Johnson, CDFW Marine Region, (562) 342-7179
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937