Aquaculture program gets national attention

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Just one meeting with Barry Bey, aquaculture instructor at South Brunswick High School, and you just can’t help but like all things fish. His knowledge and enthusiasm is contagious and the program has gained yet another place in the national spotlight by a group who knows a thing or two about fish.
Sea World has just named the South Brunswick High School aquaculture program as one of only three recipients nationwide of the 2012 Sea World/Busch Gardens Environmental Excellence Award. The award grants $10,000 to help support the advancement of the program and allows Bey and three students to receive the honor in person and experience behind-the-scenes access later this summer at Sea World in Florida.
Bey has been at the helm of the program for 25 years, but is quick to credit his students for making this award possible.
“They did 99 percent of the work,” he said.
Seniors Kayla Hux and Robert Capps, along with sophomores Ashley Sloup and Olivia Huntley, were instrumental in the development of the extensive application and required submission video. Hux, whose responsibilities included editing of the final application in accordance with the application rules, mentioned that the experience made her more attentive to details; most recently when completing her own college applications.
Capps said he is now more aware of the importance of time management. Students unanimously agree that Bey places trust in his students and as a result, they rise to the challenge.
The program’s enrollment continues to increase, which according to Sloup, is partially due to the school’s Smart Lunch and Bey’s open-door policy that encourages students to walk through the indoor lab.
“It is important there is something unique in school. This program is really cool to have,” Huntley added.
One of the key components in the aquaculture program is students’ involvement with local community service projects, which include volunteering at local fishing tournaments, like the U.S Open King Mackerel Tournament in Southport, and the Small Fry Fishing Tournament. These opportunities provide students with hands-on experience with marine biologists and other individuals in the field.
Students also serve as resident experts and help educate the public about the program and the importance of estuarine health.
What provided the backbone for the Sea World award was the FFA community service project of stocking southern flounder back into N.C. Marine Fisheries’ designated nursery areas that have declining southern flounder populations.
Annually since 2006, students have released southern flounder into Davis Creek in Oak Island. Students hatch and raise the flounder at the SBHS indoor aquaculture lab before the big release in the fall of each year.
Bey notes this project makes students and the public aware of just how fragile estuarine nurseries are and how we are facing declining stocks from over-fishing, coastal development, and pollution. Bey feels that replacing fisheries resources through stock enhancement done under the direction of N.C. Marine Fisheries makes everyone more environmentally aware and increases the buy-in for developing state saltwater hatcheries.
Environmental consciousness is something Bey stresses to his students and demonstrates through his program, which boasts the nation’s first high school solar powered fish farm. By using solar power to generate their own electricity, South Brunswick’s aquaculture program is able to provide power to the four aerators in the outdoor fish production ponds. The solar conversion was done thanks to school and community support including Progress Energy.
Bey says the program’s success has always been due to overwhelming community and agency support.
Producing college and career ready students is not only a district and school goal, but a personal one for Bey, who feels the exposure students get to aquaculture in high school can lead to multiple career options including, but certainly not limited to, marine biology, water quality assessment, and commercial/retail pet stores.
Learning of the grant award was sweet music to Bey, as annual program costs typically run about $10,000. The award will be used to buy classroom technology and program essentials, such as bird netting, salt, algae paste, fish feed, rotifers, artemia and de-chlorinators.
Bey hopes there will also be funds available through the award to continue the program’s efforts to go green.
Bey is revered by his students. In addition to the program award application, students nominated Bey for the Outstanding Educator Award, which will be announced during the summer ceremony at Sea World.