Gov. Robert Bentley joined Conservation Commissioner N. Gunter Guy Jr. and other dignitaries Monday to celebrate the start of a $9.56 million construction project at Claude Peteet Mariculture Center in Gulf Shores.
Marine Resources Director Chris Blankenship said the project will add a 21,000-square-foot laboratory and hatchery facility and an 8,000-square-foot administration building to the current Marine Resources Division facilities, which were built in 1973.
Funds for the project will come primarily from federal sources, including the Coastal Impact Assistance Program, Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration through the Emergency Relief Program.
“This will be a multipurpose facility, depending on what we need to do,” said Blankenship, who said plans for the new facility have been in the works for about five years. “If we need to do some restocking, then we can do that on species like Florida pompano, red drum, spotted seatrout or any species that are in peril and need some help. We can also do a lot of research to help with the management of other species, like spawning research, life history, and life cycle studies. We can also do some oil-related work if there is a need.”
Economist Semoon Chang of the University of South Alabama said the construction will create 167 direct jobs and 320 indirect jobs. Once construction is complete, Blankenship anticipates 10-12 new Marine Resources employees will be added to help operate the facility.
In the current economic downturn, Gov. Bentley said every single job is important.
“The research here will help create jobs,” Gov. Bentley said. “We have 9,750 people who work in our commercial seafood industry and 4,719 working in our recreational fishing industry. When we have our offshore species doing well, it really makes a difference. We really need to support those industries, because they create a lot of jobs in this area.
“But also, this construction will create jobs. Every job we create will help one more person, one more family. That is our No. 1 goal, to put people back to work.”
Blankenship said the 51 employees in Marine Resources help manage Alabama’s coastal fisheries, which include oystering, crabbing, shrimping, all the commercial and recreational fishing, seafood retailer inspections, as well as long-term monitoring of the coastal ecosystem.
Commissioner Guy said it was apparent an upgrade was sorely needed on his first visit to the Gulf Shores mariculture center.
“The Claude Peteet Mariculture Center has needed a facelift for some time now,” Guy said. “When this work is completed, we’ll have a great new facility so new research can be done. I hope, too, that this facility will be a valuable asset as we continue to assess the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the waters of our coast. Hopefully, through the work of this facility, we will keep those fisheries – oysters, shrimp, all those types of seafood – safe and thriving.”
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR visit www.outdooralabama.com.