The Ocean Resources Enhancement and Hatchery Program (OREHP) is an experimental hatchery program investigating the feasibility of using cultured marine finfish to successfully enhance wild fish populations White Seabass are spawned and reared at a hatchery in Carlsbad, which is owned and operated by Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute (HSWRI). The hatchery provides juvenile White Seabass, 4 inches in length, to 13 grow-out facilities operated by volunteers throughout southern California. The fish are held at the grow-out facilities until they are ready for release, typically at around 8 to 10 inches in length.
OREHP is one of the few stocking programs dedicated to assessing the biological and economic impacts of its releases, and it is the only program of its kind on the West Coast of North America. Through its responsible approach and extensive, self-imposed scientific review process, OREHP has established itself as a model for stocking programs worldwide.
The OREHP began in 1982 with legislation (Assembly Bill 1414) authored by California Assemblyman Larry Stirling. Initially, research was focused on California Halibut and White Seabass; however, research eventually focused exclusively on White Seabass because of the depressed condition of the stock and its higher value to both the recreational and commercial fisheries.
The OREHP is funded through the sale of Ocean Enhancement Validations on CDFW sport and commercial fishing licenses. Validation stamps are required for all saltwater anglers fishing south of Point Arguello, California (Santa Barbara County). Additional funding comes from the Federal Sportfish Restoration Act (SFRA). The OREHP is managed by CDFW with the assistance of an advisory panel consisting of academic and management agency scientists and representatives from commercial and recreational fishing groups, the aquaculture industry, and non-government/public interests. Members of the panel provide policy direction, including the expenditure of fee revenue, for the OREHP.
- October 1986 - The first experimental release of more than 2,000 juvenile White Seabass took place in Mission Bay (San Diego, California). Fish were propagated and raised at HSWRI's Mission Bay laboratory.
- March 1992 - The first legal-sized, oxytetracycline-marked, hatchery-raised White Seabass was recaptured.
- October 1995 - The marine fish hatchery became operational, built on land donated by San Diego Gas & Electric Company on Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad, California. The marine fish hatchery was funded as an environmental mitigation measure for the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (owners include Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric Company, and the cities of Anaheim and Riverside). Contributions for the construction of the marine fish hatchery also came from private, corporate, and foundation donors.
- June 1999 - The first legal-sized, coded-wire tagged, hatchery-raised White Seabass was recaptured.
- 2001 - The first year more than 100,000 White Seabass were released in southern California waters.
- October 2004 - The one-millionth White Seabass was released.
- June 2008 - The one-hundredth hatchery-raised White Seabass was recaptured.
- September 2010 - The first tagged fish was recovered from Monterey, CA. The fish was released from Dana Pt. in August 2000.
- July 2012 - A Negative Declaration was adopted for the OREHP.
- August 2014 - The two-millionth White Seabass was released.
- June 2015 - The oldest tagged fish was recovered off the coast between Santa Barbara and Ventura. The 15-year-old female was released from Marina del Rey in July 2001.
- January 2018 - Evaluation of the Ocean Resources Enhancement and Hatchery Program report is released.
- December 2018 - Results of the 2018 townhall meetings where public input was received on the future direction of the OREHP are released.
- September 2020 - Passage of Assembly Bill 1949, which amended the OREHP statute by updating the program’s management processes and expanding the program’s capabilities and public-private partnerships.