OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Ocean Springs High School has one of two aquaculture programs on the Gulf Coast. While the program encompasses the entire world of biology, teacher Bryan Butler says the class teaches children the importance of environmental awareness.
“It encompasses everything you have with biology. You can do fish. You can do medical. You can do anything bacterial, anything of that association," Butler said. "All of this feeds into one big section of biology.”
Butler’s students worked all year to raise 550 striped bass for Tuesday’s fish release. The event was the culmination of a school year’s worth of research into the ecosystem and how to grow the fish in order to release them safely.
Trent Pitts, one of Butler’s students, was one of many that took part in today’s activities.
“We got them at the beginning of the year when they were just small," Pitts told WLOX. "Everyday we got there and clean our tanks and give them food. We just kind of watched them grow. We’ve been keeping it all logged and everything.”
Releasing the fish is only one small part of the project. One hundred and fifty of the five hundred and fifty fish that were released were tagged by the students before they were released. The tags include a phone number to the school. This way, anyone that captures one of these fish can report back vital information for the students to continue their research.
Lexi Cantrell is hoping to get feedback if and when her fish is caught.
“If people catch them later on or if people come out here and get one of our fish, they can just call the numbers on the tag," said Cantrell. "Then we can see how much bigger they’ve gotten, where they found them, stuff like that... where they went.”
Now that the fish are free to swim the open waters, Butler says the program will continue past raising the fish. The class has various vegetable plants affixed above the fish tanks. According to Butler, the waste water from the fish is filtered through the root systems of the plants.
“We grow aquaponics with the use of the waste from the fish," said Butler. “Those aquaponics, the waste from the fish feeds the tomatoes, the squash, zucchini, whatever we’re growing at the time. We have no pesticides and no chemicals. So, it’s grown naturally and organic.”
Kevin Jimenez, a student of the program, simply can’t get enough!
“We usually grow, like, carrots and tomatoes and stuff," said Jiminez. "They’re usually really good. Sometimes we get rare tomatoes that are yellow, and they’re incredible.”