Duke Energy, the Fortune 125 company with a history of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lawsuits, and the nonprofit Coastal Conservation Association of Florida are no doubt a strange couple. But not on Friday at Robinson Preserve in Manatee County.
Duke and CCA Florida plan to release 2,000 juvenile redfish during a ceremony celebrating the reopening of the expanded Robinson Preserve. The goal, stakeholders say, is to address the decline in redfish along Florida's Southwest coast.
"Revitalizing the redfish population through these releases is essential [to] restock this iconic species," CCA Florida's executive director Brian Gorski said in a press release. "[Friday] is exciting because Manatee County is once again joining our efforts."
The decline in redfish and other major Florida marine species spiked during a 16-month regional red tide bloom that began in late 2017, according to a February 2020 story in the Fort Myers News-Press by eco-reporter Chad Gillis.
The bloom spread to the Panhandle and even parts of east Florida, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.
Since 2018, Duke and CCA Florida have partnered to release roughly 36,000 redfish in state coastal areas. The 8- to 12-inch redfish expected to swim away on Friday (and one day into anglers' hands and kitchens) were reared at Duke’s Crystal River Mariculture Center in Citrus County.
"The [expansion] of the [now 684-acre] Robinson Preserve fulfills a pledge … prioritizing environmental restoration and improving water quality," Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker said in a separate press release.
The two-hour event is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Canopy Zone at Robinson Preserve’s southern entrance, 10299 Ninth Ave. NW. in Bradenton.
"This restoration serves as an affirmation that our efforts will continue supporting local fisheries,” Hunsicker said.
The final phase of Robinson Preserve’s expansion involves a 150-acre habitat restoration made possible by the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast.
"Our ongoing efforts with CCA Florida are helping repopulate redfish in the Gulf ecosystem," Duke Energy Florida President Catherine Stempien said. "[Duke] is proud to be a small part of our state's multilayered approach to restoring our marine ecosystems."
According to Duke, which has 1.7 million customers in Florida, and CCA Florida, the Crystal River Mariculture Center has cultivated and released more than 4 million fish, shrimp and crabs into the Gulf in the past 30 years.
The redfish release is expected to begin at 2 p.m., CCA Florida spokeswoman Mary Hillyer Peelen said. Volunteers are encouraged to take part, Peelen said.
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