Probiotics help boost snook population devastated by red tide

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When red tide bloomed in the Gulf of Mexico, the snook population took a big hit. But scientists think they have found a way to bring them back.

Since red tide, fisherman have only been able to catch and release snook.

Juan Caramillo says he's noticed a big difference in the amount of snook when he goes fishing in Sarasota Bay.

"They used to run pretty good before the red tide got here and then we hardly see any," Camarillo said. 

Dr. Andrea Tarnecki with Mote Marine Laboratory believes she's discovered a key to help snook survive and thrive.

She's learned that probiotics given to baby snook in fish farms can boost their immune system. 

"They are the same types of probiotics that you hear about people that aid in digestion," she said. 

"We supplemented or gave good bacteria to fish larvae and we let them live in those systems for 30 days," Tarnecki continued. "We looked at the survival and we had 2 and a half times more survival in the fish larvae that were given the probiotic."

Mote Marine Laboratory has been working on aquaculture for years. They've raised baby snook large enough to release and repopulate areas devastated by red tide and cold snaps. 

Millions were killed in a single cold snap in 2010. 

"The snook are very sensitive to many things," Tarnecki said. 

The goal is to get their numbers back up, so the fishery can reopen while providing their important role in the eco-system. 

"For us the more fish that we have that survive after those sensitive larva stages, the more fish we have available for us to release them into the wild," Tarnecki said.