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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

URI student researches best method
of raising flounder for aquaculture industry

KINGSTON, R.I. -- November 1, 2001 -- New research aimed at expanding the aquaculture industry in the United States is focusing on how best to raise flounder in a controlled environment. University of Rhode Island senior Erin McCaffrey of Warwick spent the last six months playing a key role in this effort.

"Flounder are a popular fish for eating and they grow quickly compared to other fish, which makes them perfect for aquaculture," said McCaffrey, "but it’s been difficult trying to figure out how to raise them."

Working in collaboration with URI Professor David Bengtson, McCaffrey is working to determine the optimal velocity of the water in the holding tanks where the flounder are being raised.

"If they’re raised in still water and then transferred to net-pens in the bay as adults, mortality rates are very high," she explained. "We’re finding that if there is some current in the tanks, the fish are going to fight against it, build their muscles, and have a better food conversion rate."

So McCaffrey’s research team tested three different water velocities to determine which raised the healthiest fish. Daily throughout the summer and fall, she cared for the fish, monitored the equipment, and collected data at URI’s East Farm aquaculture facility in Kingston. She also worked at the flounder hatchery at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography in Narragansett.

McCaffrey said that the highest water velocity tested – approximately one half knot – caused considerable stress on the flounder and resulted in high mortality rates. Flounder grew fastest at the middle velocity level (one quarter knot), but survival rates were equal at the middle and lowest velocity levels.

Funding for McCaffrey’s research was provided by the Rhode Island Sea Grant Program through the URI Coastal Fellows Program, a unique program designed to involve undergraduate students in addressing current environmental problems. Now in its sixth year, the Coastal Fellows Program teams students with faculty, research staff and graduate students to help them gain skills that will ensure their future success.

"I had no experience doing anything with fisheries before, but it was something I really wanted to do. So it was a great experience to get my foot in the door in the field," McCaffrey said. "It was wonderful to do hands-on research and work closely with the professor."

Although she is a pre-veterinary major, McCaffrey said she will likely end up working in the marine sciences. "I don’t know if I want to work in aquaculture yet, but I know I want to explore a few other marine areas first, and then probably get my master’s degree."

Note to Editors: Several digital photos of McCaffrey conducting her research are available by contacting Todd McLeish at 874-7892 or

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