Bahamian Students Receive Hands On Lesson in Bonefish Conservation

DSC_3593It is a well-known fact that our oceans are in serious trouble from a combination of over-fishing, pollution, and unsustainable development. One of the most heavily impacted marine environments is the flats, where many anglers target their favorite species including bonefish, permit, and tarpon. Some keys to the conservation of these species are initial awareness of the threats the flats environment face, the environmental and economic importance of the flats, and the work that is being done to protect this fragile environment and the species that call the flats home. This awareness begins with education in the classroom.

This fall, Justin Lewis, BTT’s Bahamas Initiative Manager, was invited by Nicole St. Pierre, the geography teacher at Lucaya International School, to speak to her two grade 12 classes about the recreational bonefish fishery in the Bahamas. During his presentation Justin highlighted the economic and cultural importance of the flats and bonefish to the Bahamas, the history of bonefishing in the Bahamas, bonefish ecology, and the research that BTT and our collaborators are doing to help conserve bonefish and their habitats. Both classes were very engaged during Justin’s presentation, and asked a lot of great questions.

DSC_3260It is one thing to talk to students about the flats and bonefish in the classroom, but if it is combined with hands on experience in the field, what is being taught takes on a holistic form. Many of the students had never seen, let alone been on a flat before, or seen a bonefish for that matter. Justin, along with Miss St. Pierre, and Dan Dow, BTT’s PR and Communications Manager, took the students out on a field trip to a local flat where they participated in BTT’s bonefish tag-recapture program and genetics study. Using seine nets the group was able to capture 38 bonefish. Eleven of which were recaptures, these fish already had tags in them from previous tagging efforts. Justin had the students fin clip all the bonefish and insert dart tags into untagged fish.

By looking back at the original tag data of the fish that were recaptured, it was found that those fish had been recaptured in the same location where they were originally tagged. Knowing that bonefish have small home ranges has important conservation implications. For example, human disturbances such a jet ski’s, hotel developments, and marina construction can negatively impact a flat and degrade it to a point that could displace a local population of bonefish. This reinforced Justin’s classroom presentation, during which he described the small home ranges of bonefish. Having students participate in research such as this gives them perspective into what it is like to be in the field of marine science, which might appeal to some of the students as they prepare to head off to college. More importantly, it allows these young students to see and experience the vital bonefish habitat found all around the Bahamas, and hopefully that experience has given them a greater appreciation and awareness of its fragility and importance.

Justin will continue his education and outreach efforts throughout the islands he visits, educating students and adults alike about the importance of the flats and bonefish to the Bahamas, and getting them involved in the conservation work that Bonefish and Tarpon Trust does around the country. Continued research efforts to identify key bonefish habitats and studying their behaviour is integral to the conservation of the species and protection of their habitats. This ongoing research will ensure a healthy fishery for generations to come.

Click below to watch a video of the LIS field trip.

Conservation Captain of the Month: Capt. Duane Baker

Capt. Duane Baker Release a nice Keys bonefish.

Capt. Duane Baker Release a nice Keys bonefish.

The Conservation Captain for November 2015 is Capt. Duane Baker out of Islamorada, FL. Duane is the head of the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association. He has also been a rockstar by helping BTT on mapping, Everglades National Park issues, genetics sampling, fishing logbooks and much more.

Click here for more info on about Capt. Duane Baker.

Where do you guide and how long have you been guiding for? 

I guide in the FL Keys, Biscayne Bay and Everglades National Park and I have been guiding for 27 years.

How did you become a fishing guide?

Well, I grew up fishing in south FL and I loved fishing and the Keys. I was 23 and just went for it, when I started.

How many days per year do you guide?

At this point in my career I fish as much as I want to.

What species do most of your clients want to fish for. Why? 

The majority of my clients are fly fishermen. We fish for tarpon, bonefish, permit, snook and redfish.

Tell us about how the fishery used to be, compared to today. (Numbers of fish caught, seen, number of anglers on the water, etc.)

There used to be more fish in more places. The number of anglers has fluctuated over the years.

In your opinion, what is the most important conservation issue facing the Keys fishery right now and what can be done to help fix it?

There are many conservation problems facing the Keys. Water quality, the bonefish population, the population growth in FL. Size limits, bag limits and closure to harvest during spawning months should help all fish species.

Despite some of the negative things happening to our fishery, why do you love it so much?

I love fishing in the Keys and we still have good fishing. This is the birthplace of shallow water fishing and I have been privileged to make a career as a guide in the Keys.

Why do you support Bonefish and Tarpon Trust?

BTT is doing a great job trying to protect and enhance fishing for these great gamefish. I was first introduced to BTT by founder Tom Davidson in the mid 90’s. We had an epic day of bonefishing and he asked me to help out. I have given my opinion on different topics over the years. BTT has always listened.

In your opinion, what is the most important work that BTT does and why?

I think ALL the work BTT undertakes is important. This is a big puzzle and there are many pieces. Hopefully it will be filled in soon.

Why should a fisherman that doesn’t live in Florida or the Caribbean care about BTT?

BTT’s science can be applied to all bonefish and tarpon habitat worldwide.

You have the day off. What species are you going to fish for, where are you going to find them, and how are you going to catch them.

When I have a day off I love to fly fish for tarpon or bonefish or the rest of them. I usually let the conditions dictate my plan, just like a charter.

Tell us one of your favorite fishing stories.

I have had the privilege of experiencing some great fishing. I have had my share of bad fishing also. There are too many fish stories to list. Probably the most recent is watching my 14 year old son catch 2 large tarpon on fly.

New Science Paves the Way for Future of Flats Fishery Conservation

MurchieSymposiumPresentationMIAMI, FL – Imagine a fishery worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually, for which virtually no data existed to inform management. Until recently, that was the case for the recreational fishery for bonefish, tarpon and permit. The current special issue of the scientific journal Environmental Biology of Fishes, focused on bonefish and tarpon, highlights exciting new research that will help manage these economically important fisheries sustainably.

Bonefish, tarpon, and permit support economically important recreational and subsistence fisheries throughout their tropical and sub-tropical ranges. For example, the annual economic impact of the recreational fishery for bonefish, tarpon, and permit in the Florida Keys exceeds $465 million, and in Belize exceeds $50 million, and the fishery for bonefish in the Bahamas exceeds $141 million. These fisheries are critically important for local economies, so research that helps to improve management helps coastal communities remain sustainable.

The special issue on bonefish and tarpon results from the Fifth International Bonefish and Tarpon Symposium, and includes 15 scientific articles describing new research findings that will contribute to better management of these important fisheries. The special issue was co-edited by Aaron Adams, Director of Science and Conservation for Bonefish & Tarpon Trust and Research Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at Florida Institute of Technology, as well as Steven Cooke, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair at Carleton University.

“If these fisheries are managed correctly, they can contribute to economic well-being in a sustainable way for communities that depend on the ocean for their living and way of life” said Adams. “The fact that the pace of research is increasing and that we’re seeing the research findings being applied to conservation is rewarding.”

Cooke, who with his students has conducted perhaps the most research on bonefish physiology in the scientific community, agreed. “We are able to take a fundamental research approach and apply it to real-world fisheries, which results in conservation applications. I am excited to see the new research that is the focus of this issue, and to see how far we have come over the last 10 years.”

Numerous articles in the special issue highlight the importance of collaborating with anglers to obtain the information necessary for conservation. This is essential for these types of fisheries that always have been and always will be data poor. Articles also address the importance of genetics in figuring out spatial scales of management (local vs. regional), as well as the interactions between fish and their habitats and the threats from coastal habitat loss and degradation.

The International Bonefish and Tarpon Symposium is hosted by Bonefish & Tarpon Trust every three years, and includes research scientists, fishery stakeholders, and resource managers. The articles in this Special Issue are from the 2014 Symposium. The next Symposium will be in 2017.

The full article list is below. To request a copy of an article please email with the article title(s) that you would like to receive.

Advancing the science and management of flats fisheries for bonefish, tarpon, and permit By Aaron J. Adams, Steven J. Cooke

Swimming energetics and thermal ecology of adult bonefish (Albula vulpes): a combined laboratory and field study in Eleuthera, The Bahamas By Liane B. Nowell, Jacob W. Brownscombe, Lee F. G. Gutowsky, Karen J. Murchie, Cory D. Suski, Andy J. Danylchuk, Aaron Shultz, Steven J. Cooke

Bonefishes in Hawai’i and the importance of angler-based data to inform fisheries management By Keith T. Kamikawa, Alan M. Friedlander…

Ecology and niche specialization of two bonefish species in Hawai‘i By Mary K. Donovan, Alan M. Friedlander, Kimberlee K. Harding, Alex Filous, Mary K. Donovan, Eva Schemmel

High intraspecific genetic connectivity in the Indo-Pacific bonefishes: implications for conservation and management By Elizabeth M. Wallace

Using local fishers’ knowledge to characterize historical trends in the Florida Bay bonefish population and fishery By Peter E. Frezza, Shawn E. Clem

Defining adult bonefish (Albula vulpes) movement corridors around Grand Bahama in the Bahamian Archipelago By Karen J. Murchie, Aaron D. Shultz, Jeffrey A. Stein, Steven J. Cooke, Justin Lewis, Jason Franklin, Greg Vincent, Edward J. Brooks, Julie E. Claussen, David P. Philipp

Mapping of stakeholder activities and habitats to inform conservation planning for a national marine sanctuary By Brooke D. Black, Aaron J. Adams, Chris Bergh

High resolution profiles of elements in Atlantic tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) scales obtained via cross-sectioning and laser ablation ICP-MS: a literature survey and novel approach for scale analyses By Matthew Seeley, Nathaniel Miller, Benjamin Walther

An overview of the tarpon genetic recapture study in Florida – a citizen science success story By Kathy Guindon, Carole Neidig, Mike Tringali, Samantha Gray, Thomas King, Chris Gardinal, Ben Kurth

Evaluating the efficacy of the Florida Keys’ angler-assisted permit tagging program By Robert Ahrens, Zak Slagle, Sarah Stevens, Aaron Adams

Transport and connectivity modeling of larval permit from an observed spawning aggregation in the Dry Tortugas, Florida By David R. Bryan, Jiangang Luo, Jerald S. Ault, David B. McClellan, Steven G. Smith, Derke Snodgrass, Michael F. Larkin

A nationwide assessment of threats to bonefish, tarpon, and permit stocks and habitat in Belize By Michael K. Steinberg

Physiological stress and reflex impairment of recreationally angled bonefish in Puerto Rico By Jacob W. Brownscombe, Lucas P. Griffin, Tyler Gagne, Christopher R. Haak, Steven J. Cooke, Andy J. Danylchuk

Impacts of sun protection on feeding behavior and mucus removal of bonefish, Albula vulpes By Kelly D. Hannan, Zachary C. Zuckerman, Christopher R. Haak, Aaron D. Shultz

BTT is a fisheries conservation organization dedicated to enhancing global bonefish, tarpon and permit fisheries and habitats through stewardship, research, education and advocacy. If you would like to learn more about Bonefish and Tarpon Trust’s efforts, please contact Dan Dow at 845.239.6051 or or visit our website at

Catching bonefish and tarpon, for science

Originally posted on Hatch Magazine. Click to view the original article.

By Chad Shmukler

Catching a bonefish or a tarpon is reward enough in itself. Both fish are elusive. Both are amongst the angling world’s most impressive fighters. Both are beautiful specimens to behold. Should you, however, require additional motivation in order to land yourself on a sunny tropical flat or the bow of a skiff patrolling tarpon-friendly waters — then do it for the good of science.

The Bonefish and Tarpon Trust (BTT) currently has underway two separate, but equally important research initiatives that require the collection of genetic samples from both bonefish an tarpon. And that’s where you, the angler comes in.

Bonefish are typically regarded as resident fish that traverse a relatively small range. For adult bonefish, this is mostly true. However, the fact that adult bonefish segregate into local populations doesn’t tell us much about where those bonefish come from, even though it seems intuitively like it would. The reason why is that bonefish spawn in deep water, after which the larvae that hatch from their eggs drift in the open water for an average of 53 days. Whether those larvae remain in the push and pull of local currents or transported to destinations far away is largely unknown. And knowing is important to conservation efforts underway in places like the keys, where bonefish populations are diminishing.

BTT is currently in the midst of a three year program to study the origins and relationships of bonefish populations throughout the Caribbean and Western Atlantic. Driving the study are genetic samples collected via fin clips of angler-caught bonefish.

In the case of tarpon, BTT is attempting to determine whether the Atlantic tarpon population is one large, intermixed population, or many distinct sub-populations. Understanding this is key to understanding how pressure, harvest and preservation efforts in one region affect tarpon populations as a whole and thus is crucial to the development of a strong, long-term tarpon conservation plan.

Like with the bonefish project, this study of tarpon populations is driven by genetic samples. But rather than retrieving those samples via fin clippings, they are gathered through tarpon scale collection.

Kits with detailed instructions and required tools are provided by BTT free-of-charge to anglers heading out in search of bonefish and tarpon.

We’ll also be providing these genetic sampling kits and collection instructions to all of the anglers on our hosted trip this February to fly fish Ascension Bay in Mexico (a few spots still available). Anglers will have the opportunity to collect samples from the seemingly countless bonefish that scour the bay’s flats, or from the juvenile tarpon that patrol the freshwater channels that course through the mangrove of the Sa’an Kian biosphere preserve. Permit that are caught on the trip will also be tagged as part of BTT’s “Project Permit”.

For more information on BTT’s bonefish, tarpon and permit research programs, visit

Mangrove Cay Club Guide Refresher

RIMG2276Since 2006, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust has been working with partners in the Bahamas — anglers, guides, lodges and outfitters, other conservation organizations and government agencies — to identify the threats that bonefish populations face and to protect them.

These relationships have been integral to the success that BTT has had in the Bahamas and has allowed us to better understand bonefish behaviour as well as identify juvenile bonefish habitat, spawning migration routes, and pre-spawning aggregation sites. Not only is it crucial to work directly with lodges and guides, it is equally as important to inform them of the findings from our studies and the importance of best handling practices.

BTT’s Bahamas Initiative Coordinator, Justin Lewis, was invited by Liz Bain to the Mangrove Cay Club in Andros to speak to the club’s guides and staff about bonefish ecology, findings from recent bonefish research, and best fish handling practices. From the get go all of those who were listening to the presentation were fully engaged. It took Justin close to two hours to complete his normally 30 minute presentation because there were so many questions being asked and topics discussed throughout. This kind of engagement shows how invested these guides and staff are in the industry. They want to see the industry, the bonefish populations, and their habitats thrive for generations to come.

Justin will be returning to Mangrove Cay early in the New Year to tag and collect genetic samples from bonefish. He will also be giving presentations to the local primary and high school on the island which the guides suggested and are enthusiastic about organizing.

License Will Likely Be Required To Fish In The Bahamas

Bahamas Bonefish“Fly Fishing Licences ‘Largely Determined’”

Originally posted on Click here to read the full story.


Tribune Business Reporter

The Department of Marine Resources’ director yesterday said it has been “pretty much determined” that persons will require licenses for fly fishing in the Bahamas, with the fee varying according to duration.

Michael Braynen told the Abaco Business Outlook conference that the fees collected from these licenses will go directly towards conservation, research and enforcement activities related to the habitats that support fly fishing in the Bahamas.

“Our Ministry recognizes, and I think the Government recognizes, that the flats fishing industry is an important part of the tourism product of the Bahamas, and the persons engaged in this fishing activity are almost exclusively visitors to the Bahamas who pursue their fishing passion in locations throughout the country,” he said.

“Most of these locations are outside New Providence. These persons use a variety of accommodations throughout the Bahamas – from fishing lodges, hotels, big hotels, small hotels and rental homes. Many of them engage the services of fishing guides but all of them do not do this.”

Mr Braynen added: “With respect to licenses, it has pretty much been determined that there will be licenses for people to engage in fly fishing in the Bahamas.

“At present, one does not need to have a personal license to engage in this type of activity, and this will in all likelihood change. Certainly my department is recommending that it change. Everyone engaged in fly fishing will have to get a license.”

“The license will be made available online, and persons arriving in the Bahamas and deciding they want one should be able to get it from border control officials,” he said.

“The fee would vary depending on the duration of the license. We would expect licenses to be issued for a day, a week, a month, six months or a year, whatever is applicable.”

“We would not expect children under 12 to have to pay for a license. We would expect that fees collected from the license will be used directly for conservation, research and enforcement activities that support fly fishing in the Bahamas.”

Click here to read the full story.

Article Highlights BTT’s Collaboration With FIT in Project Bay Bones

In a new article on, BTT is highlighted in our collaboration with FIT in Project Bay Bones. Read the article here.

We have partnered with researchers at Florida International University to create PROJECT BAY BONES to investigate changes in South Florida waters and how these changes may affect the quality of bonefishing. We need YOUR help to fill in critical knowledge gaps on how bonefishing has changed in south Florida over the years. In the absence of scientific data on the health of bonefish populations, angler knowledge is an invaluable source of information. Thus, your BayBone2participation is vital to the conservation of bonefish and to ensuring high quality fishing in the future!

You can help us by filling in a 10-15 minute survey and telling us about your fishing experiences. This survey is different than previous surveys on the bonefish fishery because it is tied into a larger study that is examining environmental changes in South Florida over time. Bringing all of these data sets together should help us better understand bonefish.

Click here to take the survey

For further information or if you have any questions, please contact

Cut and paste links:



Bonefish & Tarpon Trust Announces New Executive Director

MEDIA ADVISORY: For Immediate Release


Alex Lovett-Woodsum
Director of Development and Communications
Bonefish & Tarpon Trust

Bonefish & Tarpon Trust Announces New Executive Director

jim profileBonefish & Tarpon Trust, a conservation organization focused on protecting bonefish, tarpon, permit and their habitats, has announced the selection of Jim McDuffie as its first Executive Director. The selection follows an extensive national search.

“The BTT leadership felt it was time to hire an Executive Director to lead us into our next chapter as an organization,” explained Tom Davidson, BTT Chairman. “We feel that Jim is the ideal person to fill the position with his experience in the non-profit conservation realm and his extensive fundraising and non-profit management skills, which will complement the abilities of Dr. Aaron Adams, Director of Science and Conservation and Alex Lovett-Woodsum, Director of Development and Communications.”

McDuffie has worked for more than 25 years in the non-profit sector, including the past two decades with The Nature Conservancy. During that time, he served on the executive management teams of the Florida, North Carolina and Maryland/DC chapters as well as led the organization’s fundraising programs in each state. His tenure also included conservation fellowships in Australia and Palau, where he worked with NGO partners to develop financially viable organizations.

“I am thrilled to be joining BTT as Executive Director,” McDuffie said. “The organization has a strong foundation and is recognized as a leader in the conservation of bonefish, tarpon and permit. It’s poised now to make even greater contributions through expanding research, stewardship and education programs.”

BTT’s Director of Science and Conservation, Dr. Aaron Adams states, “I am very pleased that Jim is joining BTT. His leadership and experience will help move BTT to the next level, which is essential to us fulfilling our mission. I am looking forward to being able to focus 100 percent on the science and conservation that are at the core of BTT.”

Bonefish & Tarpon Trust is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization working to conserve and enhance global bonefish, tarpon and permit fisheries and their environments through stewardship, research, education and advocacy.

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