spacer Mote Marine Laboratory


Published Friday, December 8, 2006

The state Fire Marshall’s Office has released its report about the July 20 fire at Mote Aquaculture Park, with the finding that the fire’s cause could not be determined. State investigators had previously ruled out arson. The report notes that while there were approximately 40 lightning strikes in the vicinity of the Aquaculture Park around the time of the fire, no direct link was found. The release of the report comes as Mote Marine Laboratory begins a fundraising drive to help rebuild the 25,000-square-foot building lost in the fire. 

Since the fire, Mote has been studying the best way to move forward. “The building lost in this fire was critical to our sturgeon program,” said Dr. Kumar Mahadevan, Mote President. “This program is designed to determine whether the use of environmentally friendly techniques in aquaculture is economically feasible. At the time of the fire, we were beginning to produce caviar, and at the point of proving our economic model. Considering the importance of this work at a time when food fish species are being depleted worldwide, we decided that it was imperative to move forward with this project and rebuild. We’re hoping the community will come forward and support this effort.” 

An article recently published in the journal Science predicts that stocks of commercially harvested food fish will collapse by 2048. Today, Americans are consuming 50 percent more seafood than they did in the 1960s and the U.S. trade deficit in seafood is second to that only to that of oil. “The time to create new sources for seafood to meet a growing demand is now,” Mahadevan said. “We don’t want to wait until it’s too late, so it’s extremely important that we move forward without delay.” 

Mote Aquaculture Park is a state-of-the-art commercial demonstration project innovating new filtration and animal husbandry techniques to produce marine and freshwater species such as sturgeon, snook, red snapper, pompano, coral and queen conch to supply the growing demand for food fish and to help replenish our ocean resources. Research is critical to helping farmers diversify their crops and aquaculture can help Florida remain competitive and diverse in its economic base. 

New sustainable sources of seafood produced in the U.S. also helps maintain strict controls of food supply and food safety and new seafood alternatives will help reduce fishing pressure on wild stocks to allow those populations to rebuild. 

Mote lost one building and about one-third of its sturgeon stock in the fire. The cost to rebuild the structure -- which included sixteen 19,000-gallon fiberglass tanks, filtration and feeding systems – is estimated to be $1.7 million. Mote also needs to raise an additional $1.3 million to cover operating costs. A Mote Board Member and Volunteer, John Pether, a CPA who is retired from a career in financial management, is taking a lead role in the rebuilding effort. “I was on Mote’s Board of Trustees six years ago when it decided to move forward with this project and I believe in it wholeheartedly. I came back to Mote to head up this effort as a volunteer because I think it’s extremely important for the public good. I urge our community to rally behind the rebuilding by providing financial support or in-kind donations.” 

Founded in 1955, Mote Marine Laboratory is one of the largest independent nonprofit marine research organizations in the world. It is dedicated to advancing the science of the sea through the study of marine and estuarine ecosystems, through the public Mote Aquarium and through an education division that provides unique programs for all ages.

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