By Greg Alder
Daniela De Kervor and Laura Wells opened the cooler and tipped it until 15 young white sea bass poured into the wild waters of Mission Bay on June 7.
The fish they helped raise for months were now free.
It was the culmination of a project called “Sea bass in the Classroom.” Run by Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, in partnership with the California Department of Fish and Game and the non-profit organization Get Inspired!, SITC allows students hands-on experience as they raise fish in order to restore depleted stocks in the ocean.
And white sea bass are one of the most prized catches for fishermen.
The students at La Jolla High were the first in San Diego County to participate in the program. In the fall of 2011, they received the group of hatchlings. The fish were housed in a tank in biology teacher Dave James’ classroom.
“Anytime you have a live animal in a classroom it’s more interesting for the students,” said James, who was responsible for bringing the project to the school. “I had kids who weren’t in my class coming in at lunch just to look at the fish.”
James tied the rearing of the fish to his curriculum at every possible turn, referring to the fish in lessons about ecology and seawater quality and food production technology.
One day a pathologist from the California Department of Fish and Game visited the class and performed a dissection, thereby bringing anatomy lessons from the textbook to life for the students.
But for a special group, the experience went beyond class time. A handful of seniors with a keen interest in marine science volunteered to help in extracurricular tasks, such as helping Hubbs scientist Mike Shane tag the fish with coded wires.
Daniela De Kervor was one of those students, and she explained how the fish were first sedated so they could be handled more easily. Then she implanted a tag just behind a fish’s eye socket.
“Someone might catch the fish I tagged,” De Kervor said. “And they’re supposed to keep the head so it can be identified.”
That would be a few years down the line. The fish are now only the size of your hand and 260 days old. The legal size of a white sea bass catch is 28 inches.
The fish surprised everyone when De Kervor and Wells dumped them from the cooler and the fish swim toward SHORE.
Students, parents and scientists gathered on the beach pointed the fish out in the clear, shallow water as the white sea bass became acquainted with the real ocean
for the first time. Then the fish turned and swam away, fading into the deep of the sea.