Rich Ford, white sea bass grow out

Redondo Beach white sea bass grow-out co-director Rich Ford , at right, scoops out a handful of young fish, along with fellow volunteers, in preparation for their release Saturday, June 22, in King Harbor Marina. (Photo by David Rosenfeld)

Dave Ingram stood in a line with five other volunteers at the Redondo Beach white sea bass grow-out, meticulously scooping out thousands of baby fish into nets a handful at a time.

The volunteers were getting ready to release close to 5,000 fish into King Harbor Marina. The task took hours, but this crew was dedicated.

This particular release came early. The fish only had three months, rather than the typical six months, to get bigger in two salt-water pools behind the SEA Lab aquarium on North Harbor Drive. The shortened grow-out came because the SEA Lab is vacating the space at the end of the month, and with it will likely go the grow-out.

Both have operated here for more than 20 years.

“That broke our hearts,” Ingram said. “This is a program that’s dear to my heart because I’ve seen sport fishing in Santa Monica Bay decline.”

But there is renewed hope now that that the grow-out, one of roughly a dozen in Southern California administered by Hubbs-Seaworld Research Institute and supported by volunteers and donations, can remain. Leaders of the group are working on a proposal they can submit to the city that details how much it would cost to run the grow-out from two slips in King Harbor.

The group is also speaking with property owner Leo Pustilnikov, whose Next Century Power bought the site at North Harbor Drive and Yacht Club Way from AES earlier this year and is in escrow for the 50-acre power plant property across the street.

Pustilnikov told the SEA Lab they could remain on a month-to-month basis without a lease, but the Los Angeles Conservation Corps ultimately decided to shut down. The non-profit Waterfront Education, which is headquartered at the site, will be allowed to stay after the SEA Lab’s absence, so the grow-out thinks they might have a chance to remain as well.

For the grow-out to stay at the site, they need to assess the current water pump that brings sea water into the pool to see if they can use it independently or get by with a smaller pump.

Ingram said the effort is important because restoring white sea bass contributes to the ultimate health of Santa Monica Bay.

“When I was a kid we used to catch tuna here,” he said. “I love this program because it’s about giving back to the bay.”

Contact Lisa Jacobs or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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