BO­NE­FISH & TARPON TRUST:

OVER 20 YEARS OF RE­SEARCH & PRO­TEC­TION

Sportfishing Adventures - - Conservation - Text by BTT Staff, pho­tos by Dr Aa­ron Adams

The mis­sion of Bo­ne­fish & Tarpon Trust is to conserve and res­tore bo­ne­fish, tarpon and per­mit fi­she­ries and ha­bi­tats through re­search, ste­ward­ship, edu­ca­tion and ad­vo­ca­cy. Through science-ba­sed ap­proaches, BTT is wor­king to pro­tect and en­hance heal­thy, func­tio­ning flats fi­she­ries and ha­bi­tats in the Wes­tern He­mis­phere, and res­tore those in de­cline. BTT is exe­cu­ting its mis­sion by part­ne­ring with uni­ver­si­ties and ins­ti­tu­tions ha­ving the ex­per­tise to conduct re­search pro­jects de­si­gned by BTT scien­tists.

In the Flo­ri­da Keys and South Flo­ri­da, BTT is wor­king to de­ter­mine and ad­dress the causes of de­cli­ning bo­ne­fish po­pu­la­tions. BTT has de­fi­ned a se­ries of re­search steps that will lead to ac­tio­nable know­ledge to im­prove the Keys flats fi­she­ry. We will ad­vo­cate for those ac­tions that will pro­tect and res­tore the fi­she­ry and ha­bi­tats. BTT is al­so wor­king to im­prove the ma­na­ge­ment of Flo­ri­da’s per­mit fi­she­ry and the re­gu­la­tions ne­ces­sa­ry to en­sure a heal­thy tarpon fi­she­ry throu­ghout the Gulf of Mexi­co, Sou­theast Uni­ted States and Ca­rib­bean.

BTT was foun­ded in 1997 by a group of six an­glers concer­ned that the bo­ne­fish po­pu­la­tion in the Flo­ri­da Keys was de­cli­ning and no­bo­dy was ta­king ac­tive steps to mo­ni­tor or re­verse it. They re­sol­ved to learn more about the causes of the de­cline and contrac­ted with Uni­ver­si­ty of Mia­mi to search exis­ting li­te­ra­ture and prior stu­dies on the is­sue, of which there was ve­ry lit­tle. A few years la­ter, the group for­med Bo­ne­fish and Tarpon Un­li­mi­ted, and brought to­ge­ther a group of 60 Foun­ding Mem­bers re­pre­sen­ting the "Who's Who" of salt­wa­ter flats fishing. In the ear­ly days, the board ki­cked off ini­tial re­search pro­jects, wor­ked to build pu­blic awa­re­ness and re­cruit mem­bers. Ini­tial re­search ef­forts fo­cu­sed on bo­ne­fish tag­ging to col­lect much-nee­ded da­ta on po­pu­la­tion ba­se­line, size, growth, and range of mo­ve­ment and sa­tel­lite tag­ging of tarpon to learn more about their mo­ve­ment pat­terns.

As the or­ga­ni­za­tion and fun­ding grew, so did BTU's scope of work. The first Bo­ne­fish and Tarpon Re­search Sym­po­sium was held in 2003, brin­ging to­ge­ther 20 par­ti­ci­pa­ting scien­tists and a large group from the pu­blic. The next sym­po­sium was held th­ree years la­ter (and eve­ry th­ree years since), hos­ting 35 scien­tists. This re­pre­sen­ted si­gni­fi­cant pro­gress from BTU's foun­ding six years ear­lier when no­bo­dy was

ac­ti­ve­ly en­ga­ged in bo­ne­fish or tarpon re­search. In 2009, BTU be­came Bo­ne­fish & Tarpon Trust (BTT). The fol­lo­wing year, the first is­sue of the Bo­ne­fish & Tarpon Trust Jour­nal was pu­bli­shed, which high­ligh­ted the re­search and conser­va­tion ef­forts for bo­ne­fish, tarpon and per­mit and their ha­bi­tats. The cir­cu­la­tion the first year was 2,500 and has since grown to over 15,000, fo­cu­sing not on­ly on re­search and conser­va­tion but al­so fishing ar­ticles, an­gler pro­files, pho­tos and more.

Around 2010, BTT be­gan to broa­den its geo­gra­phic scope, fo­cu­sing re­search and conser­va­tion ef­forts in the Ba­ha­mas, Cu­ba, Be­lize and Mexi­co and ex­pan­ding its work to in­clude per­mit. In recent years, BTT has ap­plied its scien­ti­fic cre­di­bi­li­ty and re­search ef­forts to po­li­cy and re­gu­la­tion ad­vo­ca­cy in Flo­ri­da and throu­ghout the Ca­rib­bean. This has in­clu­ded work with the Flo­ri­da Fish and Wild­life Conser­va­tion Com­mis­sion (FWC) to re­vise and im­prove re­gu­la­tions for bo­ne­fish, tarpon, per­mit and bar­ra­cu­da, and work in the Ba­ha­mas to create 6 na­tio­nal parks to pro­tect cri­ti­cal bo­ne­fish spaw­ning lo­ca­tions BTT iden­ti­fied from fu­ture de­ve­lop­ment.

BTT conti­nues to work with a num­ber of col­la­bo­ra­ting ins­ti­tu­tions to ex­pand our know­ledge of the fi­she­ries through re­search, edu­cate the pu­blic about is­sues fa­cing the fi­she­ries, and is wor­king with FWC and other agen­cies at the na­tio­nal and in­ter­na­tio­nal le­vel to im­prove the conser­va­tion re­gu­la­tions for bo­ne­fish, tarpon, per­mit and their ha­bi­tats. For more in­for­ma­tion on our work, please vi­sit our Pro­jects Page. By be­co­ming a mem­ber, you will help sup­port us in our mis­sion to conserve and pro­tect tarpon, bo­ne­fish, and per­mit fi­she­ries for fu­ture ge­ne­ra­tions. To learn more or be­come a mem­ber, click here

Ju­ve­nile per­mit re­quire san­dy, wind­ward beaches as nur­se­ry ha­bi­tat.

Re­search in the Ba­ha­mas found bo­ne­fish spawn off­shore, at night, near full and new moons bet­ween late Oc­to­ber and April.

Round-trip spaw­ning mi­gra­tions of over 100 miles ap­pear to be com­mon for bo­ne­fish. Pho­to: Nick Ro­berts.

Sa­tel­lite tag­ging de­mons­tra­ted that adult tarpon are ca­pable of long-dis­tance mi­gra­tions.

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