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Halper discusses plans for local fish hatcheries

Co-founder of Florida Fishery Foundation speaks to members of Matlacha Civic Association

June 28, 2019
By ED FRANKS ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

George Halper, president of the Florida Fishery Foundation, a new group formed to raise funds to build fish hatcheries in Southwest Florida, offered a PowerPoint presentation recently at a Matlacha Civic Association meeting.

The foundation was started by two longtime fishermen, Halper and Bob Weller.

"None of us knew each other 2 1/2 months ago," Halper said. "I met Bob on the Internet and in 2 1/2 short months we have 3,700 members on our Facebook page (Restock Florida Fisheries Now) and we have our Web page up and running at"

The foundation's mission statement is "To provide a clear path to enhance Florida fish stocks for future generations while concurrently strengthening the economy."

"The Florida Fishery Foundation is a piece of the puzzle," Halper said. "We hope to start a fish hatchery on Pine Island. But we're also linked to cleaning the water, saving the manatees, restoring the mangroves and replanting the seagrass -- everything is interconnected."

Halper said he is concerned that his children and children today will not have the fishing opportunities he had as a boy.

"If there are no fish out there, the kids won't fish," Halper said.

"Bob and I are both lifelong fishermen," Halper continued. "I've been here 20 years and I can tell you how bad it is out there. Our Legislature is doing nothing so we have taken it upon ourselves to do this."

Halper pointed out that states such as Texas have highly effective hatcheries. In Corpus Christie, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department operates a redfish hatchery that produces juvenile (30 millimeter) red drum and spotted seatrout for releasing into Texas bays for stock enhancement.

"The Texas operation produces 50 million fingerling redfish, spotted seatrout and flounder every year," Halper said.

Halper said when you think of a fish hatchery you think of this massive operation but small fish hatcheries can work and you have to start somewhere. The group plans to start small -- possibly with one fish hatchery tank on Pine Island or Matlacha to release fish into Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor.

"One small 5,000-gallon tank can produce up to 5,000 redfish twice a year," Halper said. "Now 10,000 fish won't make a big difference, but by adding more tanks to the system you produce more fish."

"We're looking to raise an initial $50,000 - $75,000 to get started," Halper said. "Phase one is simply to establish the 501(3) and establish the Facebook page and the website to get people involved. So far we've been very successful with that. Our Facebook page has more than 3,500 members."

In phase two the group hopes to raise the money, acquire the land, expand on the media outreach and see some businesses about advertising funds.

"In phase three, we will be seeking large corporate sponsors," Halper said.

"Saltwater fishing is a $9 billion industry in Florida and the state is losing billions," Halper said. "This whole area revolves around fishing. If there's no fishing there's no buying boats, bait, rods and reels and no guides.

"Our main focus is the children," Halper said. "We're not trying to reinvent the wheel here but we want to place as many fish as possible as soon as possible. Our kids need a good fishery right now."

The Florida Fishery Foundation's website also includes a GoFundMe button.

On Facebook: Restock Florida Fisheries Now

You can also contact the organization via the mail at Florida Fishery Foundation, P.O. Box 152982, Cape Coral, FL, 33915-2982.



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