Recent Florida Keys Baby Bonefish Search a Success

For the second year in a row, scientists, guides, and volunteers from Bonefish and Tarpon Trust went on the hunt for baby bonefish in the Florida Keys. By “baby” we mean juvenile Albula vulpes less than 5” long or bonefish larvae. In the past, BTT has funded research in the Bahamas to identify preferred nursery habitats for the juvenile bonefish. We are now taking that information and applying it in the Florida Keys to identify similar habitats.

In our previous search during the summer of 2013, we were unsuccessful in finding any baby bonefish in the Keys. Their absence obviously raised some concerns and we were eager to see if sampling a year later would yield a more positive result.

After revising our search strategy based on the previous year’s results and new information from the Bahamas, BTT set out for the week long Baby Bonefish Blitz in June. We are happy to announce that this year we were successful in locating juvenile bonefish in one location of the Upper Keys where BTT staff and volunteers seined a shoreline that had been identified as likely juvenile bonefish habitat. The juveniles were found with a couple hundred mojarras, something we’ve come to expect based on the previous BTT research conducted in The Bahamas. We are currently awaiting genetic analysis to confirm that these were juvenile Albula vulpes, and not one of the other species of bonefish that aren’t caught in the recreational fishery.

In many of the places where we did not find juvenile bonefish, we located beautiful habitat that seemed ideal. We will continue to refine our sampling techniques to locate juvenile bonefish nurseries in the Florida Keys and further our understanding and conservation of the Florida Keys flats fisheries.

We thank a long list of volunteers who donated their boats, backs and brains to BTT: Nelson Padron, Carmen Perez-Padron, Capt. Richard Black, Charlotte Berry, Rob Preihs, John Preihs, Natalie Flinn, Al Flinn, Derke Snodgrass, Arthur Black, Patrick Pace, Joseph Cross, AJ Juliano, Bryce Wheaton, Chris O’neill, Capt. Will Benson, Linda Denkert, Tim Henshaw, Andrew O’Niell, Capt. Simon Becker, Bill Stroh, Sebastian Palay, Capt. Bob Branham, Kyle Velunza and Jessica Wietsma.

If you find juvenile bonefish like the ones in the photo, please let us know the location and date (email: info@bonefishtarpontrust.org). Please do not collect the juvenile bonefish; a research permit is required to collect.

Permit Satellite Tagging: Costa’s Project Permit

On April 7th, 2014, as part of Costa’s Project Permit, we ventured out and successfully placed the first ever satellite tag on a Florida Keys permit! Costa’s Project Permit is joint effort between Bonefish and Tarpon Trust and Costa Sunglasses to address data shortcomings specific to the permit species. The catch and recapture data will finally inform us on permit movements in Florida waters and provide managers with new data that might be applied to management zones. For more information visit http://www.btt.org or http://www.projectpermit.com

The Bahamas Initiative Addresses Threats to the Bonefish Fishery

The Bahamas have some of the best bonefish fishing in the world, thanks to many miles of shallow flats, and to a community of fishing guides that act as stewards of the fishery and its habitats. In a study conducted in 2009, during the height of the Great Recession, the recreational fishery for bonefish in the Bahamas had an annual economic impact exceeding $141 million (USD).  With more recreational fishermen traveling today as the economy recovers, that number is certainly higher. The fishery not only supports jobs, but also allows a culture that relies on the sea to continue.

Despite its economic and cultural importance, the fishery faces trouble. The trouble comes in the form of gillnets, resource extraction, and coastal development.

Gillnets:  Despite regulations that prohibit the capture of bonefish with nets, the use of nets to target bonefish is increasing. The most troubling case is on Long Island, where gillnetting on the flats has already negatively impacted the bonefish population, and is threatening the future of the fishery. Despite these illegal acts being reported by fishing guides and others, enforcement has been lacking. Whether the bonefish are being used for bait or are illegally sold at market, their capture brings significantly less economic value than if those fish remained alive and part of the recreational fishery. Nevin Knowles, head of Long Island Bonefishing Lodge, said, “If this keeps up for five years, our bonefish population in Long Island will be gone.  They’re using, at the last estimate, a $58,000 bonefish to catch a 90 cent snapper, and they’re killing our industry”, referring to the estimated value of a single caught and released bonefish given the overall value of the fishery. He continued, “The tourists go to the Out Islands for the fishing. That’s the only thing that attracts tourists to Long Island. They’re killing the goose that laid the golden eggs.” The complete story about the ongoing gillnetting on Long Island is summarized in an article from The Tribune. Click here to read the article.

In the recent past, similar episodes have been reported on Grand Bahama Island and South Andros.

Dr. David Philipp, Chair of the Fisheries Conservation Foundation, sums it up well: “Bonefish are very susceptible to capture by netting, and removal of those fish could crush the Long Island bonefish population for years to come. This would destroy an extremely valuable industry that benefits the entire community. Everyone in those communities should act to prevent those irresponsible persons from stealing the Bahamas’ natural resources for their own purposes.”

Harold Brewer, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust board member and Managing Director of the Bahamas, with Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie during a meeting about conservation of the bonefish fishery at Deep Water Cay in 2013.

Resource Extraction:  The flats of Grand Bahama Island are world-renown for their large and plentiful bonefish. One of the first bonefish lodges in the Bahamas was located on the east end of the island, adjacent to the expansive sand flats that extend for miles to the southeast. This area has been proposed as a National Park to provide protections to the bonefish fishery and other fisheries important to residents. These sand flats are being proposed as a site for sand mining, with sand dredged to a depth of 16 feet. Of particular concern is the area near Bursus Cay. After a public meeting in McLean’s Town in May 2014, Eric Carey, Bahamas National Trust’s Executive Director noted, “The East End Communities, especially the fishermen, have made a strong case for this proposed national park. Noting the importance of Bursus Cay as to the sustainability of their fishery, and the threat that the proposed dredging represents, they have asked Bahamas National Trust to expand the original proposal, to include this important area.” In a story about a similar meeting concerning the proposed park and possible dredging project as reported in BahamasIslandsInfo.com, local fisherman Cecil Leathern said, “We all know what will happen if this dredging is allowed; how it could destroy not only the bonefish flats and our lobster grounds, but also affect them down in Abaco.  We need it all protected.”

A school of bonefish at a spawning site.

Coastal Development:  After years of research and working with fishing guides, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust researchers have identified a bonefish spawning location on Abaco. Early data suggest that this may be the only spawning location for bonefish that inhabit the world famous Abaco Marls. Bonefish that live in the Marls for most of the year migrate to the spawning location each winter, and return to the Marls after spawning. A proposed resort development along the migration pathway and near the spawning site would disrupt spawning, with inevitable impacts to the bonefish population and the fishery.

Bonefish Conservation:  Bonefish & Tarpon Trust has been working with collaborators to address these threats to the bonefish fishery in the Bahamas for the past 8 years. BTT is working with science partners, fishing guides, and lodges to conduct tag-recapture research to identify the home ranges of bonefish. We’re also working to identify the migration pathways to spawning sites, and to identify spawning sites. This information is then used to develop habitat and fish conservation plans to ensure a healthy bonefish fishery. We’re hopeful that information gained in recent years on Grand Bahama Island and Abaco is being used to enact protections for the bonefish fishery and habitats on those islands. We are now applying efforts to other islands, including Long Island, Andros, Great Exuma, Acklins, and others.

A crew comprised of scientists, guides, and volunteers tag bonefish as part of the Bahamas Initiative.

 

How You Can Help:  While the information from the work of BTT and collaborators is essential to enacting conservation strategies for bonefish and their habitats, it is not enough. Your help is needed to ensure a healthy future for the fishery. Visit www.btt.org and Contribute to BTT to help fund the Bahamas Initiative. Write a letter expressing your concerns about the threats to the bonefish fishery.  Email the letters to us, we’ll compile them and present them in the Bahamas.

 

Former President George H.W. Bush Honored For His Commitment To Conservation

Last week, conservation leaders from around the country gathered in Kennebunkport, Maine to honor former president George H. W. Bush for his commitment to conservation.

Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris led the delegation and presented Bush with the Bass Pro Shops Lifetime Conservation Achievement Award. “President Bush is a remarkable man who has had an immeasurably profound and positive impact on our nation’s fish and wildlife resources,” Morris said. “He is a longtime and passionate fisherman and sportsman and that well-known love of fishing has made him one of the best ambassadors the sport of fishing has ever had. Most people don’t realize all that President Bush has done for conservation. During his presidency, he established 56 new wildlife refuges, more than even President Theodore Roosevelt who established 50 refuges. . . All of us at Bass Pro Shops are proud to pay tribute to him for everything he has done to uphold our hunting and fishing traditions as well as for his work on behalf of restoring and enhancing wildlife and fisheries habitat.”

During the celebration, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust president Matt Connolly presented a framed Monroe County Resolution and letter of support from Florida Governor Rick Scott to rename Islamorada’s “Little Basin” Flat to “Two George Flat.” BTT advocated renaming of the flat in honor of President Bush and his long time friend, fishing buddy, and legendary Florida Keys fishing guide, the late George Hommell, Jr. Hommell, who was a founding member of Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, was remembered last April with a sunset celebration at World Wide Sportsman where $205k was raised for the BTT George Hommell Florida Keys Habitat Fund. The two men shared a love of flats fishing and they were both deeply passionate about the conservation of the Florida Keys fisheries.

Mr. Connolly commented, “It was my great honor, on behalf of BTT, to present President George HW Bush with copies of the official actions of Monroe County and the state of Florida to re-name Little Basin Flat to “Two George Flat.” It stands as a living tribute to the late George Hommell and his long time fishing partner President George HW Bush as it was their favorite fishing hole. Their partnership is emblematic of BTT’s long tradition of working together with like minded partners and it is BTT’s goal to return the flats of the Keys to the bountiful vigor that first greeted these two American icons; one a committed citizen conservationist and the other a visionary conservationist president.”

In addition to receiving honors from Bass Pro Shops and BTT, former President Bush was also recognized by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the American Sportfishing Association and Ducks Unlimited.

BTT and Costa’s Project Permit Update: Tagged permit recaptured off south Florida Coast

Whenever we get a report of the recapture of a tagged fish, the BTT team tends to get a bit giddy. It’s kind of like when your friend returns from a blind date. Who? Where? When? Give us the dirt! In our case, the answers to these questions not only fulfill our thirst for the fishy details, but they provide important scientific data that will help us better understand what makes our beloved species tick.

Recently, we received notification from angler Nick Way about his recapture of a tagged permit in the Atlantic near Lake Worth, FL. Nick reported that his fish, caught on April 30th, 2014, measured 28.25 inches to the fork and weighed in at 17.5 lbs. As always, everyone’s ears perked right up. Ok, so where was it originally tagged? Who tagged it? How much has it grown?

We immediately checked the tag number in our database. As it turns out, this particular permit was originally caught, tagged, and released in Biscayne Bay by Captain Carl Ball on March 26th, 2012. At the time, the fish measured 26 inches to the fork and weighed 15 lbs. For everyone keeping score, the fish grew 2.25 inches and gained 2.5 lbs in 2 years, 1 month, and 4 days, and traveled roughly 65 miles north of where it was originally captured. Truly exciting stuff!

To date, Carl has tagged well over 100 permit for BTT—one of our most prolific permit taggers— and that day he was about to add another to the list. He recalled the day having low humidity, crystal clear blue skies, and seemingly endless visibility on the flats. One of those days that we dream about. Carl and his angler John, who fish together about 6 times per year, were fishing with a live crab on a spinning rod when they caught and tagged this permit. When asked about his participation in Project Permit, Capt. Carl replied, “Hopefully we will all have a much better understanding of these species and be able to protect them for the future. I am glad I am in a position to be able to make a contribution by tagging so many fish. It’s great to be a part of this program.”

recaptured permit

Angler John with the tagged permit

Every bit of data from this tag-recapture, and all others, is vital to the future of the permit fishery. Although we have made much progress in the past five years, we still lack information on fishing effort, harvest, habitat use, migration patterns, age structure, and growth rates. We need these data to help inform regulations to ensure that the fishery stays healthy for future generations.Every tag and recapture counts.

Costa’s Project Permit is a cooperative effort between Costa Sunglasses and BTT, and is also generously support by the March Merkin. Its mission is very simple: gather much needed data to help guide management decisions and protect permit fisheries for the future. It sounds easy, but we need your help. Project Permit relies heavily on angler participation, both in tagging fish, and reporting information from recaptured permit sporting tags.

We hope you will consider supporting Costa’s Project Permit in one of the following ways:

Request a permit tagging kit, email bob@bonefishtarpontrust.org

Report a tag recapture.

Learn more and donate to Project Permit.

BTT thanks Costa Sunglasses, The March Merkin: Key West Permit Fishing Tournament, numerous other donors, Capt. Carl Ball of AWOL Fishing Charters, Captain Joe Gonzalez of Funny Bone Charters, along with all the other participating anglers and guides for their generous support of this work.

BTT is looking for a liveaboard vessel to host our bonefish spawning research team

Be Part of Bonefish Spawning Research

We are in need of a liveaboard vessel in early December 2014 for our ongoing spawning bonefish research project. We will be on station at our main research site in the Bahamas December 4 – 9, 2014. We previously worked from a land base, but this created logistical difficulties that prohibited some of the research. We are hopeful that a vessel owner or operator is willing to donate a vessel and crew for this project.

One of the top priorities of the Bahamas Initiative is to identify spawning locations so that we can work to have these important locations protected. Working with collaborators, we have identified numerous likely locations, have confirmed some of these, and continue to identify and confirm these important locations throughout the Bahamas.

However, just finding locations isn’t enough. We need to understand what it is about these locations that make them attractive as spawning sites, how the bonefish are using these locations, and the pre-spawning and spawning behaviors of bonefish.

  • Understanding what makes a location attractive as a spawning site helps us to narrow down the list of possible locations to search as we continue to identify more spawning sites – not just in the Bahamas, but in the Florida Keys, Belize, and elsewhere.
  • Understanding how bonefish use a location helps us determine how large of an area needs to be protected to ensure spawning is successful. For example, preliminary data suggest that bonefish may use a staging area for a day or two, then move to a nearby pre-spawning site where they begin complex pre-spawning behavior and then move offshore to spawn. This activity covers more than a single point on a map, and would require appropriate spatial coverage of any protections.
  • Understanding spawning behaviors is critical to our efforts toward rearing bonefish in captivity. In places where bonefish populations have declined significantly, such as the Florida Keys, a bonefish hatchery may be a useful tool in efforts to restore the fishery. Once the causes of the population decline are identified and resolved, a hatchery is a viable method to helping the population recover, and then good conservation measures will be used to sustain the fishery.

If you are willing to donate a liveaboard that can accommodate 4 scientists for the research trip of December 4 – 9, 2014, please email info@bonefishtarpontrust.org or call 321-674-7758.

FIU seeks candidates for postdoc position studying the causes of bonefish decline in Florida Bay and the Everglades

FIU is looking for candidates for a postdoctoral position studying the causes of bonefish decline in Florida Bay and the Everglades. This postdoc position will play a lead role in the upcoming water quality study, funded by BTT.

Postdoctoral position at FIU, Miami: Bonefish decline in Florida Bay, Everglades: linking key drivers & recreational fisheries

Desired start date:  Summer/Fall 2014

Duration:  2-3 years

Salary:  $45,000/year plus benefits

Location:  Florida International University, Miami, FL (Rehage lab & Southeast Environmental Research Center)

Position Description:
We seek a talented and enthusiastic postdoctoral researcher to work with a team of researchers examining the decline of bonefish in Florida Bay, Everglades National Park. Bonefish (Albula vulpes) are an economically-important recreational fishery in South Florida and the Caribbean, yet little is known about their ecology and population dynamics. Our study will examine the observed decline in the recreational angler catches of bonefish in Florida Bay and aims to identify the underlying drivers. Florida Bay is a shallow embayment at the southern end of the Everglades, bordered by the Florida Keys, and strongly affected by upstream water management and ongoing restoration efforts. Our project will examine the potential drivers of bonefish decline in Florida Bay taking a comprehensive and long-term retrospective approach that integrates multiple datasets.

The postdoc will be based in the Rehage lab at Florida International University, and will work with other faculty at the Southeast Environmental Research Center (SERC) at FIU (Dr. Fourqurean-seagrass ecology, Dr. Briceno-water quality, Dr. Heinen-natural resources-people conflicts), with researchers at Everglades National Park and at other agencies, and in close collaboration with the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust. The primary role of the postdoc will be to lead data analysis and manuscript preparation using multiple long-term datasets. Existing datasets expand 20+ years and include: (1) hydrological, water quality and climatic parameters, (2) seagrass dynamics, (3) prey abundance and distribution, and (4) bonefish angler catches. The angler catch data come from 2 key sources of information: creel data and fishing guide reports collected by Everglades National Park, and a survey of anglers and fishing guides being conducted as part of this study (work by a graduate student on the project).

Primary duties for the postdoc are to:

  • Work with project PIs and collaborators to obtain, organize and prepare individual datasets for analysis.
  • Conduct sophisticated spatial (GIS-based) and temporal analyses (e.g., time series) to examine linkages among data sets and identify the key factors driving bonefish angler catches in the system.

In addition to working with existing datasets, the postdoc will have the opportunity to assist with the key informant survey of anglers and guides and the design of a citizen science angler program associated with the project. The postdoc will also have the opportunity to collaborate on other projects in the Rehage and SERC PI labs, on ongoing research in an NSF-funded South Florida Water, Sustainability and Climate (WSC) project, and be part of the Florida Coastal Everglades LTER program and of other Everglades restoration-related research and activities.

Requirements:  A PhD in ecology, fisheries, statistics or related field by Spring 2014 is required, and a degree with emphasis on quantitative skills is preferred. Excellent statistical skills, and evidence of these in previous work and publications in combination with a strong ecological/fisheries sense are needed for this position. In particular, experience in geospatial statistics, GIS, ecological modeling, and analysis of large datasets are essential. Experience and interest in aquatic/marine ecology, population ecology, fisheries, working with multiple data sets including angler records are also preferred. Applicants must have a demonstrated record of publication in peer-reviewed journals, and ability to interface well with collaborators, resource managers and stakeholders (anglers).

To apply:  Please send a single PDF containing (1) a cover letter describing your fit for this position (particularly describing your quantitative skills, past accomplishments & career goals), (2) a CV including a list of 3 references, and (3) representative publications to Dr. Jennifer Rehage, rehagej@fiu.edu. Please use the subject matter: FL Bay postdoc + your last name in your email.  Review of applications will begin June 1st. Position is open until filled. We thank you in advance for your application and please expect a contact only if selected for an interview.

For more information, please visit:
http://www2.fiu.edu/~rehagej/index.html
http://sercweb.fiu.edu/
http://earthenvironment.fiu.edu/
http://sfwsc.fiu.edu/
http://fce.lternet.edu/
http://www.btt.org/

SERC is a research-intensive and productive academic unit with strong expertise in freshwater and marine ecology, biogeochemistry, and tropical/subtropical ecosystem dynamics. FIU is a public research university in Miami with a highly diverse, vibrant, and growing student body located near the edge of the Everglades. Our multiple campuses serve over 50,000 students, placing FIU among the ten largest universities in the nation. FIU is Carnegie-designated as both a research university with high research activity and a community-engaged university. FIU leads the nation in granting bachelor’s degrees, including in the STEM fields, to minority students, and is first in awarding STEM master’s degrees to Hispanics. FIU is a member of the State University System of Florida and is an Equal Opportunity, Equal Access Affirmative Action Employer.

BNT working with East Grand Bahama residents to protect the area in light of development proposal

For any serious bonefish angler, the East End of Grand Bahama Island is a little slice of heaven. The region is known for not only its numbers of bonefish, but also, their exceptional size. Due to its pristine habitat and healthy fishery, BTT has been working with organizations such as the Bahamas National Trust (BNT), The Nature Conservancy, area lodges and local guides to ensure that the East End stays protected for future generations.

Last week, with only one day’s notice, the Bahamas National Trust and many concerned members of the East End community attended a town hall meeting held by the Nassau Island Development Company (NID) in McLean’s Town, East Grand Bahama.

BNT GB Parks Manager Lakeshia Anderson said that the BNT was surprised to hear of the meeting. “We have been hearing about a proposed project, but had not had any contact with NID prior to this event or any official word from the Government either. . .We have been dutifully working in East End, consulting with locals, speaking to residents and hearing their desires and concerns about a proposed Marine Protected Area.”

After the NID meeting Miss Anderson said “We were very concerned to hear at the meeting, a statement claiming we had met with the team reportedly hired to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on this matter. The statement also suggested BNT had been advised of the scope of this group’s work and this meeting.” She added, “This is not the case, and BNT came to the meeting, like most of the residents, unaware of any plans and left the meeting without full knowledge of the plans and still with no proper EIA to review.”

Since June 2013 BNT has been working with the residents of East End to pinpoint important areas to be protected and to expand protection areas that are already in place. BNT’s Executive Director, Eric Carey, noted “The East End Communities, especially the fishermen have made a strong case for this proposed national park. Noting the importance of Bursus Cay as to the sustainability of their fishery, and the threat that the proposed dredging represents, they have asked BNT to expand the original proposal to include this important area.”

Click here for the full article from BNT

Tips For Fishing For Juvenile Tarpon

The vast ocean flats aren’t the only spot where you can get your tarpon fix. Often you can find just as much excitement fishing for juvenile tarpon with light tackle in the dark and stagnant back waters that are scattered throughout Florida. These canals, creeks and mangrove swamps provide an abundant food source, plenty of cover, and low oxygen content which helps to keep larger predators at bay.

“Juvenile tarpon really don’t need their water to have much oxygen in it—they can get just about all of their oxygen by gulping it at the surface, because of their modified swim bladder,” said Aaron Adams, a fisheries/environmental scientist with Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. “They can live back in sticky, mosquito-infested places where other larger fish that might eat them can’t survive. Think of a place where you probably wouldn’t want to be in a mangrove swamp and that’s probably where juvenile tarpon are going to be.”

Read more of the Florida Sportsman Article here:

Inaugural BTT George Hommell Jr. Florida Keys Habitat Fundraiser Nets $205k

A picturesque spring sunset over the flats was the backdrop for the inaugural Bonefish and Tarpon Trust George Hommell Jr. Florida Keys Habitat Fundraiser, held at World Wide Sportsman in Islamorada, FL. Conservation-minded anglers, guides and friends gathered on the beach to celebrate the life and memory of one of the pioneers of flats fishing and conservation efforts in the Florida Keys.

George Hommell Jr. was an angling legend. He is credited with refining the techniques for poling for bonefish, was one of the first people to trailer his boat around to find fish, and also developed a number of important shrimp fly patterns, including the Hommell Evil Eye. In 1964 George helped baseball legend Ted Williams initiate the Gold Cup Tarpon Tournament and shortly after, in 1967, Hommell founded World Wide Sportsman alongside clients Carl Navarre and Billy Pate. Hommell was also a devout conservationist. He promoted tarpon and bonefish protection and Everglades Restoration through World Wide Sportsman, promoted awareness about the importance of seagrass preservation, and under his leadership, Bayside Marina became the first certified “green” marina in the Keys. In a wonderful tribute to Hommell’s legacy, attendees committed $205,000 to the BTT George Hommell Jr. Florida Keys Habitat Fund. A $100,000 lead gift was announced by Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris – a dear friend of Hommell – making it the single largest corporate gift in BTT’s history.

The evening was kicked off by a lively cocktail hour and opening remarks from BTT Chairman of the Board, Tom Davidson, who thanked Event Chairman Bill Stroh and his committee on a job well done. Hall of Fame angler Stu Apte provided an entertaining trip down memory lane and George Hommell Jr.’s daughter, M.E. Hommell-Chidiac, reminisced fondly about her father before introducing Morris as the evening’s keynote speaker.

Morris, a founding member of BTT, recalled many memories of Hommell, whom he purchased World Wide Sportsman from in 1997, which led to a lifelong friendship. He recited a quote from writer Kip Farrington, saying “In a life spent fishing, I’ve come to realize it’s not the big fish that you catch, but the people you meet and the friends that you make along the way that matter the most…in all this time, I can say, I’ve never met a grander gentleman, or a more passionate, inspirational person than Mary Ellen and George’s dad, George Hommell Jr.” The highlight of Morris’ speech came when he pledged $100,000 on behalf of Bass Pro Shops to the Hommell Fund to help BTT in their efforts to investigate the causes of the bonefish decline in the Keys and to carry forward George Hommell Jr.’s hope that the Florida Keys flats could be returned to their former glory.

In response to John Morris’ pledge, BTT President Matt Connolly remarked that, “Johnny is not only an entrepreneur, but a citizen conservationist, which is what BTT is all about…we will compound this and have it pay dividends in the Florida Keys.”

The evening rounded out with a science presentation from BTT’s Director of Operations, Dr. Aaron Adams, discussing BTT’s five-year strategic plan to protect and restore the Florida Keys flats and particularly the bonefish populations. The plan includes conducting research on the genetic population of bonefish to see whether Keys bonefish are self-recruiting (spawn locally) or if Keys juveniles are spawned in other locations, a contaminant study to determine whether water contaminants are affecting bonefish well- being, and conducting wide-scale water quality assessments throughout the Keys. Additionally, BTT will work on identifying and protecting critical juvenile and spawning bonefish habitats to protect the future of the populations. Through this research, BTT hopes to determine the causes of the bonefish decline in the Keys and take future steps to address them so we can restore the health of the bonefish populations and the overall health of the Florida Keys flats.

Dr. Adams was followed by a moving presentation from 30-year veteran Keys fishing guide, Captain Bob Branham. Branham drew on a map of Key Biscayne to Lower Matecumbe Key to highlight locations where bonefish were once found on a regular basis in the Upper Keys. He then used a black marker to shade out the numerous spots where bonefish are rarely seen today and asked that attendees help him and his fellow Keys fishing guides by supporting BTT’s efforts.

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 in the Keys, please contact Alex Lovett-Woodsum at 617.872.4807 or alex@bonefishtarpontrust.org or visit our website at www.btt.org.