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Secretary of the interior visits Alabama

U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt toured the Claude Peteet Mariculture Center (CPMC) in Gulf Shores and conducted a site inspection at the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge on Tuesday.

At the CPMC, the Secretary met with Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Chris Blankenship, Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft, and DCNR staff where he received a briefing on their fish hatchery and the construction of artificial reef systems.

During the tour, the Secretary viewed the brood stock holding room, zooplankton room, recirculating aquaculture system, and ponds.

Secretary Bernhardt then toured the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge to conduct a site inspection and thank the refuge staff for their hard work to keep the refuge accessible to the public throughout the pandemic. The Secretary and Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) toured the refuge by boat; and took part in a coastal restoration project planting black needlerush.

According to a Department of Interior statement, the Trump Interior Department has increased safety measures and inspections for offshore oil and gas development and completed numerous conservation projects to restore beaches and natural habitats in the Gulf of Mexico.

Specifically at Bon Secour NWR, the Department of the Interior has worked with the State, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Conservation Fund to protect pristine scenic property adjacent to the refuge and rehabilitated an aging trail within the refuge to help boost ecotourism and make it more accessible for those with mobility differences. Interior has also constructed two dune walkovers to provide the public with access to the beach, while protecting the Alabama beach mouse from foot traffic.

All of Bon Secour NWR‘s trails and outdoor spaces remain open and accessible for the American people to enjoy.

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The Alabama Marine Resources Division (AMRD) maintains the CPMC. It was created in 1970 with 40 acres of land donated to the State by Ms. Mildred Casey. An additional 5 acres was purchased by the State providing access to the Intracoastal Waterway and a brackish water source needed to fill ponds.

From 1970 through the early 1980s the infrastructure and operational costs of CPMC were primarily funded by federal grants related to the culture and stocking of Gulf of Mexico strain striped bass (Morone saxatilis) in Alabama waters.

During the mid-1980s through the mid-2000s, a variety of species were cultured at CPMC including spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus), red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus), Eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) and red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus). Beginning in the mid-2000s, shrimp and Florida pompano (Trachinotus carolinus) were the primary species cultured at CPMC. Currently, the three species of fish cultured at CPMC includes: red drum, Florida pompano, and southern flounder (Paralichthys lethostigma).

AMRD is also planning to modify the infrastructure to allow for the culture of the Eastern oyster. Oyster spat produced in the hatchery will be used to repopulate natural oyster reef areas in Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound which have degraded in the last decade due to various natural and man-made causes.

The operations and maintenance of CPMC is funded through the Fish and Wildlife’s Sport Fish Restoration Program, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Alabama fishing license purchases.

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was established in 1980 to ensure the well-being of migratory birds and threatened and endangered species, as well as serve as a living laboratory for scientist and students. Located 50 miles due west of Pensacola, Florida, and 50 miles southeast of Mobile Alabama. Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is one of 567 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System. It currently manages and protects 7,735 acres of barrier island habitat in the northern Gulf of Mexico, providing a “Safe Harbor” (Bon Secour in French) for all the protected species that rely on it.

Bernhardt, age 50, was an attorney and energy industry lobbyist before being appointed as Secretary of the Interior by President Donald J. Trump (R). He is the 53rd United States Secretary of the Interior. He is originally from Rifle, Colorado. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Colorado and a law degree from the George Washington University Law School.

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Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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