OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - A new class at Ocean Springs High is showing students how to raise their own saltwater fish. The only high school aquaculture program in the state is growing, thanks to a large donation.
In one class, students get to go fishing every day, but their catch isn't for the dinner table. Instead, the Speckled Trout are helping the students learn about fish farming.
"When you get to watch your fish grow up and you know you took care of them and all that stuff, it's amazing," said Ocean Springs High Junior Dougless St. Amant.
"We haven't had a death in like over two months," another student commented.
Ocean Springs High wanted to add a saltwater class to its aquaculture program, which started last year. So the Gulf Coast Research Lab recently donated 550 juvenile Speckled Trout, along with 4,800 gallons of saltwater and five tanks.
"So the fish themselves was the benefit of them starting the fish off from eggs and giving to us at a juvenile stage when they're easier to grow. The water was in perfect condition. The salinity was exactly what they were living in before and all the bacteria and everything is right for the water," said Ocean Springs High Aquaculture teacher Bryan Butler.
The students are in charge of the babies' survival, from cleaning the tanks and feeding the fish, to tracking their growth.
"I grew up on the coast. I've always been a huge saltwater fisherman. I just thought it would be interesting to see how the fish come up and they grow into what you're catching out there," said Ocean Springs High Senior Jake Freeman.
GCRL scientists also come to the campus to mentor the students.
"It's not only going to affect us, it's going to affect the community more than anything. The people that want to know about fish, the people that want to know what's going on in the waters, these home-grown kids, home-studied kids from Ocean Springs, will be able to give them answers," said GCRL Spokesman James Skrmetta.
"It's very generous and we honestly wouldn't have the program we do without it. We're so grateful," said Dougless.
In May, the Speckled Trout that are healthy and have reached the right size will be tagged and released into the wild. Next year, the school will add a third aquaculture class. The students will actually go the GCRL to work with the scientists in fields that interest them.