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Students in the Aquaculture program at East Bay High School are learning that raising fish is a great deal of work.
The program, which is the only one in the county, teaches students how to raise an aquatic animal from seed to sail and eventually sell it.
Money earned from the sale of the fish goes right back into the program.
“So, we have a huge demand for seafood every year and it is growing and we are overfishing,” said Dan Conner, Aquaculture Teacher at East Bay. “So, having programs like this that teaches new skills for new students looking to get in the field, I think it’s going to have a big impact moving forward.”
The Aquaculture program has been at East Bay for 15 years. The fishing industry wanted to create the program to have students transition from high school into the profession.
The University of Florida Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory was heavily involved with the creation of the greenhouse and donating all the fish. Many of the wholesale distributors that buy from farmers also helped build this program back in the day.
Alyssa Weinstein, a junior at East Bay, wants to start her own fishing business when she graduates.
“I decided to join because it honestly seems like an interesting craft and I really am fond of animals,’ said Weinstein. “So, I thought I would learn how to raise one because I plan on having a future business and it would be good for my career.”
The programs are different based on the area they are in.
In Hillsborough and Polk counties, students raise oriental or aquarium fish.
Up north in Cedar Key, students raise clams because that is the biggest business there.
In Miami, the focus is on food fish. One of the largest food fish companies in the area is trying to raise salmon, according to Conner.
They are projected to make enough salmon to cover the U.S. market by 2030.
“Aquaculture is growing because it is a way to meet the need for seafood and we are just trying to replicate industry standards at the moment,” said Conner.
Students like Anthony Singley are grateful for the unique program that has opened many opportunities for him.
“It is good to know that our school is able to be a part of this and do a program that not every other high school does,” said Singley. “It opens up an opportunity for more students to have a different career other than what is usually given in school.”
Students who take part in the 4-year academy can earn up to 21 hours of college credits, plus college scholarships.
They also receive on the job training and certification to work in the field.
Ninety-seven percent of the tropical fish sold in the US are reportedly grown in Florida.
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