Unusual donation of redfish feeds hungry in Florida

How Duke Energy’s Crystal River Mariculture Center pitched in to help families struggling through COVID-19

Even though the Citrus County Family Resource Center in Florida has more people to feed because of the pandemic, families will get something special this summer. Duke Energy donated 500 pounds of redfish fillets from its Crystal River Mariculture Center to help feed about 1,500 people. 

During the summer, the nonprofit has more families to feed and fewer donors because snowbirds have returned home – and the pandemic’s economic hardships have made conditions worse.

“We’ve had a lot more people who have never asked for help before,” said Ginger West, the center’s director.

Workers at Duke Energy and The Crab Plant unloaded more than 90 redfish to fillet.


For the next month, in addition to fruits, vegetables, peanut butter and bread, the center’s families will receive redfish fillets. Redfish is flaky with a mild, sweet flavor. It’s a Florida game fish and hard to come by unless it’s caught in the wild.    

“People are excited about it,” West said. “It’s something our families don’t get to have.”

Mariculture Center manager Eric Latimer raised the redfish at the hatchery that spawns redfish and spotted seatrout and releases them into the Gulf of Mexico.

“We’re continuing to release redfish,” Latimer said. “But it’s a lot more important to feed people in times like these.”

To fillet the fish, Duke Energy teamed up with The Crab Plant, Shrimp Landing and Seafood Seller & Café. The seafood markets volunteered about 60 hours of labor to get the job done.

Duke Energy’s Jeff Swartz, from left, Dorothy Pernu, Eric Latimer and Bridgett Fagan delivered 500 pounds of redfish fillets to the Citrus County Family Resource Center to distribute to families.


“Giving back is what life is all about,” said Sean DuBois, a manager at the Seafood Seller & Café.

Though this is Duke Energy’s first redfish fillet donation, the company has given $1 million in COVID-19-related grants to about 70 nonprofits in Florida.

Sean DuBois, left, a manager at Seafood Seller and Café, brought these filleted fish to Duke Energy’s Eric Latimer.


Commitment to community

Since opening in 1991, Duke Energy’s Crystal River Mariculture Center has released more than 4.1 million fish and crustaceans, becoming one of the most successful marine-stocking programs in Florida and advancing environmental stewardship and conservation throughout the state. 

The Mariculture Center has a history of giving back to the community in unique ways, including releasing 34,000 redfish in 2019 to offset devastation from red tide; donating more than 8 million freshwater eelgrass plants to help limit destructive algae from growing; and participating in educational programs that teach students about fish, habitat restoration and conservation.