BTT Tarpon Acoustic Tagging Project

BTT is pleased to announce our new tarpon acoustic tagging project that is beginning _DSC6255 - Version 2shortly. The purpose of this study is to obtain scientific data necessary for tarpon conservation.  Data will be used exclusively to protect tarpon and enhance their habitat through improvements in fishery management.  BTT will not distribute specific data to the public and will only describe tarpon movements and habitats in a general way in order to build public support for greater protections. This project will help answer the following questions:

  • Is the tarpon population large and robust or small and vulnerable? If anglers in a particular location are fishing for the same fish every year, then the tarpon population is probably smaller than we think, and issues like shark predation will become a bigger concern. If fish move among regions every year, and anglers are fishing for different fish each year, the tarpon population is probably large.
  • Do tarpon use the same spawning site each year or move among spawning sites? On average, ocean currents will carry the larvae from a spawning site to juvenile habitats in a specific geographic region. If it’s the same adults at the spawning site every year, then local adult losses will cause declines in juveniles. If tarpon move among spawning sites, then the population will be more resilient.
  • How do changes in freshwater flows into coastal waters influence tarpon movements? Do the problems with Lake Okeechobee and Everglades restoration impact tarpon? Are the water issues in Apalachicola causing changes in tarpon movements?
  • What are the movement patterns and habitat use of mid-size tarpon (20-50 pounds)? How will these tarpon be impacted by coastal water quality issues? This size class, which is the future of the fishery, is very vulnerable to changes in coastal habitats and water quality.

Why Acoustic Tracking?

 Although satellite tagging previously funded by BTT provided valuable data, the tags typically only stayed on the tarpon for a few months at a time, which prevented long-term tracking. In addition, because of the large size of the satellite tags, their use is limited to tarpon over 80 pounds.

The new Tarpon Program will use acoustic telemetry to track tarpon movements.

acoustic tags come in many sizes

acoustic tags come in many sizes

Advantages of acoustic tags are that they are smaller and less invasive and can remain with the fish and active for up to five years rather than a few months. In addition, because acoustic tags come in a range of sizes, they can be used on tarpon from 20 pounds and larger, not just the extra-large adults. They also cost significantly less than satellite tags.

How Acoustic Tagging Works

 Tags are surgically implanted in the abdomen. Each tag emits a subsonic ping that has a unique code for each tag. These pings are detected by underwater receivers when a tagged fish swims in range. When receivers are placed at strategic locations like inlets, bridges, and schooling locations, they can be very efficient.

As part of this four-year study, BTT will place 20 new receivers in waters around Florida, to add to the 60 receivers we already have in the water. In addition, colleagues at universities and state and federal agencies are using this technology to study movements of other fish species. Their receivers will also detect BTT tarpon tags. With more than 1,300 receivers in the water in the Gulf of Mexico, and more than 3,000 along the southeastern US coast, this project will be able to examine both local and long-distance movements for many years. BTT will tag 50 fish in each year of the study.

How You Can Help

 Sponsor a Tarpon: Sponsor an acoustic tag for $2,500. You can name your tarpon, and will receive a certificate with its name, photo and initial capture info (very general location and measurements). Each time BTT downloads data from the receivers (approximately every 6 months), a summary of the general data on your fish will be sent to you.

Sponsor a Receiver: Sponsor and name an acoustic receiver (listening station) for $3,000. Each time BTT downloads data from your listening station, you will receive a summary of the fish that have been detected by that station.

Help us tag tarpon. Prior to a tagging trip, our scientists will put out a notice about when and where they will be, along with contact information. If you are fishing in that area when we are tagging, all you need to do is call us when you catch a tarpon. We’ll come to your boat, transfer the tarpon over, and take care of the rest. Remember to always keep the tarpon in the water!

Contact Us Today!

For more information and to sponsor a tag or receiver, please contact Alex Woodsum, Director of Development and Communications at 617-872-4807 or alex@bonefishtarpontrust.org

The purpose of this study is to obtain data necessary for conservation. Data from this study will only be shared with the public in a very general sense to explain how the data is contributing to conservation. Specific data on tarpon movements, habitat use, etc. will not be shared. Our goal is to use these data for conservation, not to help anglers catch more tarpon. So rest assured, the data is highly confidential.

Postdoctoral Researcher Wanted for BTT Bonefish Project

Ft. Pierce, FL

Postdoctoral Researcher – Aquaculture

A Post-Doctoral Researcher position located at FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Ft. Pierce, FL is available immediately. This position will work closely with the team of researchers conducting a project to determine the requirements for production of juvenile Bonefish Albula vulpes to assist in the recovery of bonefish stocks in the Florida Keys. Key aspects of this research include brood stock conditioning, induced spawning, environmental requirements for rearing leptocephalus larvae, larval nutrition, juvenile husbandry, and juvenile nutrition. The successful candidate will be expected to have excellent English writing and communication skills targeted to both scientific and lay audiences. The applicant will be required to work collaboratively and independently, often in harsh environmental conditions, to achieve the project goals and objectives as part of a large research team including multiple faculty and graduate students. This position is anticipated to last a minimum two years, but is annually renewable dependent upon performance and availability of funds. The position will remain open until filled and applications will be reviewed upon receipt.

Requirements

The applicant must have completed a Ph.D. in Aquaculture, Fish biology, or other closely related fields within the past three years from an accredited academic institution at the time of appointment. The applicant must have experience in aquaculture research or fish biology in areas relevant to the project described above.

Experience in brood stock conditioning, induction of spawning, and larval culture methods for marine fish species is highly desirable

To Apply

Applicants must apply electronically to the currently posted position on the Office of Human Resources’ job website (https://jobs.fau.edu), #01005068, by completing the Faculty, Administrative, Managerial & Professional Position Application and submitting the related documents.

The site permits the attachment of required/requested documentation. In addition to completing the online application, please upload the following: a cover letter, curriculum vitae, copies of official transcripts scanned into an electronic format, a statement of research experience and philosophy; and contact information for three references including email addresses.

Degrees from outside the United States must be validated by an organization belonging to the National Association of Credential Evaluation Service (NACES), with an indication of the documents the evaluation was prepared from (official transcripts, diplomas, dissertation abstracts). The evaluation should be scanned and electronically attached to one’s application as with other US-based transcripts.

Prior to appointment, the candidate must submit official, sealed transcripts from all institutions where graduate coursework was attempted, whether or not a degree was obtained, as well as an original NACES evaluation, if applicable. Transcripts must be issued to Florida Atlantic University not to you as the student.

A background check will be required for the candidate selected for this position. This position is subject to funding.

Florida Atlantic University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability status, protected veterans status or any other characteristic protected by law. Individuals with disabilities, requiring accommodation, please call 561-297-3057 x. 711

GPS Company Contacts Needed-ENP Mapping Project

We are asking our members and followers for help in taking the next step in flats fisheryIMG_0063 conservation. We need assistance from anyone with contacts at GPS companies. We would like them to participate in a mapping project that will help protect flats habitats while ensuring fishing access to the flats. Read on for more details and please email info@bonefishtarpontrust.org if you are able to help.

Everglades National Park recently instituted their new management plan. A significant part of this management plan is the creation of many pole/troll/idle speed zones to protect shallow seagrass habitat. BTT worked with ENP, guides, and anglers to map the flats and access channels to ensure there is access to these new zones as well as to ensure the shallow seagrass beds are protected. These maps have been ground-truthed to ensure accuracy.

An important component of the new ENP management plan is the boater education course- in order for a person to operate a boat in the Park, the boat operator must complete the course that includes conservation, habitat, and vessel operation information. However, many of these boat operators will not have intimate knowledge of Park waters that would aid navigation. And many of the new access channels will be different, so even boaters with local knowledge will have a learning curve.

Working with Everglades National Park, we would like to provide our new mapping data to the companies that produce the commercial GPS units that many of us have on our boats. This would save a lot of money for the Park by reducing the amount of channels and zones that have to be marked. More importantly, it would ensure that boaters remain in the access channels and avoid running in shallow water, both of which will help habitat conservation and fishing. (It’s important to note that these data DO NOT include information on fishing, only the channels for boat operations and the boundaries of the management zones.)

We’ve had trouble contacting the commercial GPS companies to get this done. We realize this won’t be a big money maker for them, but we’ve already obtained the data so the costs are greatly reduced. We are hopeful that these companies see the conservation (and thus PR) value in including these mapping data in their platforms. In addition, as more resource management agencies turn to spatial management strategies (that is, different types of management zones), this approach is going to become even more important to the flats fishery – the conservation and fishing implications are large.

Our request is for contact information for the GPS companies so that we can work with them to include these data in their platforms, and the same data can reach the public in a user-friendly fashion. The future of the fishery depends on good conservation measures, and healthy fisheries help the bottom lines of these companies – it’s in their best interest to become involved. Thanks for your help. Please contact info@bonefishtarpontrust.org.

Fix Our Water: Massive Seagrass Die-Off in Florida Bay

Mats of seagrass after a dieoff in the Indian River Lagoon. Photo: Dr. Aaron Adams

Mats of seagrass after a dieoff in the Indian River Lagoon. Photo: Dr. Aaron Adams

The Washington Post recently released an article about the massive seagrass die-off in Florida Bay. Over 40,000 acres of seagrass have died since last summer, a result of years of water-mismanagement not allowing enough water to reach Florida Bay, which led to hypersalinity (too much salt water) and caused this die-off. Read the full article here.

We are asking you to take action today if you care about these and the many other fisheries being negatively affected around the state of Florida. Visit www.btt.org/fixourwater to send a message to your government representatives. It only takes a minute to make your voice heard.

Hell’s Bay Donates Skiff for BTT Research

Much of BTT’s research requires our team to be out on the water. Of course there are countless hours spent in labs analyzing data, but our work requires us to put in the time on boats to collect samples and conduct research. We aren’t just out there to fish—though lucky for us that is sometimes (truly!) the best sampling method.

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Capt. Rob Kramarz with an acoustically tagged permit

If we get a call about a spawning aggregation, or a seagrass die-off, or hordes of permit or bonefish swimming, we need to get out there quickly to conduct important research. As the scope of our projects grew, so did our need to be out on the water.

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First fish caught and tagged on the new boat

For a while, this presented a number of challenges because we didn’t have the one thing we really needed for that—a boat. Fortunately, we had generous guides, friends and staff members who could often accommodate our last minute requests to get out on the water, and we still rely on guides who generously donate their time and expertise to put our scientists on fish.

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The BTT Hell’s Bay Whipray in action

But we really needed our own skiff.

Thankfully, our longtime sponsor, Hell’s Bay Boatworks came to the rescue and approached us with the generous offer to donate a Whipray to BTT’s research efforts. Over the past few months since it first hit the water, the new BTT Whipray has been all over Florida, allowing us to conduct and accelerate important research programs.

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Permit release!

Now that the Whipray has joined the BTT team, we don’t really know how we functioned without her! She was critical to our ability to set our array of acoustic receivers in the Lower Keys and provided a successful trip to the lower Keys last month to acoustic tag permit for that same project. As the permit fishing continues to heat up, we will ramp up our permit tagging efforts in the months to come. With the new boat, we have been able to gather a number of additional bonefish fin clips for our bonefish genetics project. And as we start tagging tarpon and placing acoustic receivers this May for our tarpon acoustic tagging project, those of you in Florida may spot the BTT Whipray out on the flats. Many of our research efforts will rely on this boat to get us there.

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Keys Bonefish-fly caught, fin clipped and released

We are grateful to Hell’s Bay for the newest addition to the BTT research team. Our work on the water is critical, and we couldn’t do it without their generosity. Stay tuned for our upcoming stories and photos from the flats aboard the new BTT research vessel, and visit www.hellsbayboatworks.com to check out their awesome lineup of boats.

Two Permit Recaptured In The Florida Keys!

In early April, the BTT staff received a report of a tagged permit that was recaptured in the lower Keys. Captain Don Gable was fishing with his angler and well-known photographer, Tosh Brown, when they hooked and landed a beautiful Keys permit that had previously been tagged with a BTT dart tag. Tracing the tag number back through our records, we learned that this particular fish was tagged on October 22, 2013 by angler Joe Skrumbellos on the exact same flat in the lower Keys! Unfortunately Captain Don was not able to measure the fish when it was recaptured, but when the fish was originally tagged it measured in 21.5 inches. Comparing the two photos of this fish shows that it grew quite a bit in the past 2.5 years. The similar location of the catches supports the hypothesis that permit, like bonefish, tend to be homebodies and they frequent the same locations time after time.

Jared Sholk with his tagged permit caught on 4/8/16

Jared Sholk with his tagged permit caught on 4/8/16

Then, Mother Nature threw us a curve ball. Just a few days later we received a second report from angler Jared Sholk. Jared was fishing off shore, south of Key West when he caught a tagged permit that weighed in at an estimated 15 lbs. Heading back to the record books we found that Jared’s fish was originally caught and tagged less than a year ago on July 21, 2015 by Captain Carl Ball nearly 120 miles north in Biscayne Bay! Previously, the record distance traveled by a BTT tagged permit was a fish that was also tagged in Biscayne Bay by Carl Ball and was recaptured roughly 65 miles north near Lake Worth, FL.

When asked about these two very interesting, yet contrasting pieces of data, BTT’s Dr. Aaron Adams said, “This is exactly why tagging and reporting of tagged fish is so important. A main goal of Project Permit is to determine what portion of the permit population remains in small home ranges and what portion moves long distances. For example, bonefish tagging revealed that bonefish have small home ranges, but can migrate long distances to spawn. It is possible that permit follow similar movement patterns to bonefish. The information from Project Permit will let us know if the current permit regulations are appropriate or if they need revision following BTT’s science-based approach to conservation.”

 

Belize River Lodge Wraps Up its 5th and Final Tagging Challenge Week

Belize River Lodge Tagging Challenge 2016 winners

(From L – R) Craig “Bubba” Janssen, BRL Guide Dirk Burgard, Chuck “Bingo” Hemingway, and BTT’s JoEllen Wilson

In early April, Belize River Lodge hosted its 5th and final Tagging Challenge Week where anglers compete in a week-long competition to tag permit, fin clip bonefish and collect scales from tarpon. Individuals receive awards for sampling the largest and most fish for each species and the proceeds from the Challenge are donated to BTT. This year, nine anglers participated in the Challenge and they were accompanied by BTT’s Juvenile Tarpon Habitat Program Manager, JoEllen Wilson.

When all was said and done, the anglers collected a total of 47 bonefish fin clips and 6 tarpon scales. Unfortunately, the group was unable to tag a permit. Belize River Lodge also made a generous donation of $4,000 to BTT to help continue the research of these valuable flats species.

The lucky winners of this year’s Challenge were Craig “Bubba” Janssen with the most tarpon caught (2) and most bonefish sampled (20), and angler Chuck “Bingo” Hemingway won the largest tarpon award with a 60 lbs. fish and the largest bonefish sampled at 17″ which tied with angler Gene Weber.

Unique opportunities like the Tagging Challenge allow anglers to interact with BTT scientists while immersed in a flats fishery that they may only see once every few years. Although this week’s anglers hailed from Seattle, Bozeman, MT, and San Francisco, they all share a passion for flats fishing and conservation. These lodge hosted trips also provide the opportunity for BTT to educate on the importance of conserving these valuable flats species and what steps are being taken in order to do that. While staying at the lodge, JoEllen presented to the group on the advancements of juvenile tarpon habitat research, the importance of protecting existing natural habitats and using habitat restoration to repair altered habitats. The anglers were very inquisitive and asked questions about catch-and-release mortality, the disadvantages to satellite tagging and the morphology of a tarpon’s mouth as it eats a fly.

A special thanks goes out to Belize River Lodge for their continued support of BTT and to the anglers that participated in last week’s Challenge. BRL plans to host future competitions, but the format has not yet been decided. Stay tuned!

Boca Grande Pass Gear Restriction Boundary Shifts

Original release posted on myfwc.com.

Sands shift and when they do, sometimes, buoys must be moved and boundaries changed. That’s what happened recently in Boca Grande Pass. Recent changes to the buoys marking Boca Grande Pass will affect tarpon anglers and others fishing in the Pass during the months of April, May and June.

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Earlier this year, several buoys marking Boca Grande Pass were moved by the U.S. Coast Guard to better align with the shifting channel. One buoy specifically (Flashing Red Buoy #12) was a reference point marking the boundaries of Boca Grande Pass for the purposes of specific gear restrictions. Red buoy #12 was removed and replaced with a new buoy (Charlotte Harbor Channel LB 6). This new buoy is about a quarter mile east-southeast of the old buoy.

Regulations that apply within this area defined as Boca Grande Pass include:

  • Fishing with gear that has a weight attached to a hook, artificial fly or lure in such a way that the weight hangs lower than the hook when the line or leader is suspended vertically from the rod is prohibited year-round.
  • No more than three fishing lines may be deployed from a vessel at any one time during the months of April, May and June.
  • No person shall use, fish with or place in the water any breakaway gear during the months of April, May and June.