BTT’s comments on the proposed Bahamas “FISHERIES RESOURCES (JURISDICTION AND CONSERVATION) (FLATS FISHING) REGULATIONS, 2015”

Hon. V. Alfred Gray

Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources

fisheries@bahamas.gov.bs

 

Dear Mr. Gray:

Bonefish in WaterI write to you to provide comments on the proposed “FISHERIES RESOURCES (JURISDICTION AND CONSERVATION) (FLATS FISHING) REGULATIONS, 2015” dated June 17, 2015. I write to you as Director of Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, an international, non-profit, membership-based, conservation organization based in Florida, USA. BTT’s mission is to protect and conserve bonefish, tarpon, permit and their habitats so that healthy fisheries can be sustained. BTT envisions its role as provider of biological information to resource management agencies, guides, and lodges so that they have the best available information to use as they formulate conservation strategies.

I commend your interest in protecting the economically and culturally important recreational bonefish fishery in the Bahamas. As Director of BTT, I offer the following commentary that I hope enhances your efforts to protect this important fishery.

It is BTT’s assessment that the top threats to the long-term health of the bonefish fishery in the Bahamas are habitat loss and degradation. This is not unique to the Bahamas – the same threats are impacting the bonefish fisheries in Belize, Mexico, Cuba, and Florida. Although the Draft Regulations address many management aspects of the fishery, they do not address habitat conservation and protections, which are essential components of a comprehensive conservation plan.

BTT has been working with the Bahamas National Trust, Cape Eleuthera Institute, College of the Bahamas, and Fisheries Conservation Foundation for many years to identify the habitats upon which bonefish depend. The goal of this research is to provide information to Department of Marine Resources, BNT, and others so that they can prioritize areas for conservation and protection. This research has allowed us to identify bonefish feeding areas, spawning migration pathways, and spawning locations on many islands. The feeding areas directly support the fishery, whereas the spawning pathways and spawning locations are essential to the future of the fishery. It is essential to protect all of these habitats to ensure a healthy fishery. This is especially true of bonefish spawning locations, which are in deep water that will not be protected by protections of only flats habitats. Nassau grouper provide a cautionary tale on the importance of spawning site protections. Therefore, I encourage you to incorporate a habitat conservation component as the core to your overall conservation strategy.

The establishment of a Conservation Fund is an excellent idea. However, it is unclear in the Draft Regulations to what entity and for what purpose the funds will be allocated. This has been an item of concern in many states in the US, as well as in Belize. Recreational anglers are generally willing to pay for a fishing license as long as they know the funds are being applied to conservation and protection of the fishery. In general, top concerns of anglers on the use of funds are enforcement of illegal activities (such as netting of bonefish) and habitat protection and conservation. In addition, the easier a license is to obtain (such as via a web site), the more likely anglers are to participate in the system and become engaged in conservation.

It is also unclear how the permit (license) application process and the limitations listed for the permit will impact bonefish research. Our research is already conducted under a permit from Fisheries, but it is unclear if the proposed regulations will supersede the Fisheries research permit. This is of concern since bonefish are captured for tagging research using both seine nets and hook and line.

On the topic of a fishing license, I am curious on the requirement for an application with the possibility of denial. To my knowledge, no US state or other bonefish fishing location has such a procedure, instead requiring only personal information and the required fee. I have taken the liberty of attaching a list of fees for non-resident saltwater fishing licenses for US coastal states (all of which provide access to licenses via online payment) as reference. (Click here to view license fees)

As you know, an economic report commissioned in 2010 by BTT, Bahamas National Trust, and Fisheries Conservation Foundation found that the annual economic impact of the recreational bonefish fishery exceeded $141 million, with the greatest relative impacts in the Family Islands. Further, the cultural importance of the fishery on the Family Islands is reflected by the occurrence of the family relations of bonefish guides – an occupation proudly passed from fathers to sons, among brothers and cousins. Given the economic and cultural importance of the fishery, the need for conservation of the fishery and habitats is clear.

The report also showed that anglers that travel from the United States, Canada, and Europe to fish for bonefish in the Bahamas contribute to the Bahamas economy in multiple ways. Many anglers stay at fishing lodges, where their expenditures support guides and lodge staff. Other anglers stay at hotels and guest houses, where their expenditures support the local communities where they stay. Moreover, these anglers spend more money per visitor night and more money per total visit than non-angler tourists. The full report is available here: http://www.bonefishtarpontrust.org/images/stories/Bahamas_Flats_Economic_Impact_Report.pdf

Finally, education is critically important. For example, the general assumption is that since the recreational bonefish fishery is catch and release, that the fishery is automatically sustainable. However, research has shown that if bonefish are improperly handled their chances of survival decreases more than six-fold. Therefore, BTT continually educates fishing guides and anglers about proper handling techniques to ensure that sufficient bonefish survive to maintain a healthy fishery. Education might be considered as an additional component to a comprehensive conservation plan.

Thank you for considering my comments on behalf of Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. I hope that BTT can continue to contribute to the conservation of the bonefish fishery in the Bahamas. As always, please consider BTT an information resource for your bonefish conservation efforts. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Aaron Adams, Ph.D.

Director of Operations

Bonefish & Tarpon Trust is growing!

btt logoBonefish & Tarpon Trust announces a search for an Executive Director. The Executive Director will possess the skills to continue developing and leading the organization’s strategic direction and to greatly enhance BTT’s fund raising resources. The Executive Director should be skilled in leading an organization that relies upon its volunteer leaders and science-based communication strategies to advance critical policy and fundraising objectives.

“We pride ourselves on being a small, efficient organization, and our hard working staff and volunteer board have made it possible for us to be successful,” said BTT President Harold Brewer. “Now we are at the point that we are ready for the next step in our growth. Bringing in an Executive Director will provide support to our Director of Development and Communications, Alex Lovett-Woodsum, our staff, board, and fundraising efforts that we need to take the next step in our conservation efforts. We are excited.”

Tom Davidson, BTT Chairman, echoed Mr. Brewer’s comments. “Aaron Adams, our Director of Operations, and the rest of our staff have done a fantastic job, and bringing in an Executive Director will make our staff even more effective. The new Executive Director will focus on supporting our staff, fundraising, and working with our volunteer board to grow BTT. This will allow Aaron to focus on science and conservation, which is at the core of BTT’s mission.”

Read the full job announcement here.

The FWC Wants To Hear From You!

The FWC Wants To Hear From You!

The FWC Division of Marine Fisheries Management is conducting a short survey to help determine priority areas for marine fisheries management projects.

Marine fish and invertebrates are your resources. This is your opportunity to assist in the management of them.

The survey will be available online through June 25. One survey per person.

Have questions? Call Marine Fisheries at 850-487-0554 or email Marine@MyFWC.com.

Click here to take the survey.

Help Hawaiian Bonefish Achieve Gamefish Status

BTT Conservation Captain, Mike Hennessy, with a beautiful Hawaiian O'io.

BTT Conservation Captain Mike Hennessy with a nice Hawaiian O’io.

It is no longer a secret that the state of Hawaii supports a pretty good bonefish fishery. Catching a fish over 10 pounds is not uncommon to our friends in the Pacific. Just like the Keys, the Bahamas, and Belize, the bonefish in Hawaii face their own set of challenges and they need our help.

Unfortunately, gill-netting and commercial sale of bonefish in Hawaii are both commonplace and legal. A group of very concerned anglers and guides are currently petitioning Hawaii Governor, David Ige to designate bonefish as a “gamefish” in the state, thus prohibiting commercial sale. Please assist them with this effort by taking a moment to fill out their petition.

https://www.change.org/p/stop-gill-netting-hawaiian-bonefish

Bonefish and Tarpon Trust Announces ARC Fishing As Their Newest Corporate Sponsor

ARC_Fishing_logoBonefish and Tarpon Trust is pleased to announce ARC Fishing as their newest Corporate Sponsor at the Bronze Partner Level.

ARC Fishing is an emerging fly line, tippet and leader materials company whose philosophy embodies simplicity without sacrificing performance. As part of their sponsorship, ARC Fishing has donated fly lines and materials for use at BTT fundraising events and other special opportunities.

“ARC Fishing is excited to partner with Bonefish and Tarpon Trust on their continued efforts to conserve and protect habitat and fish species.  BTT is on the leading edge of these types of initiatives and it is with great pleasure that we are able to support them to ensure these habitats are protected for future generations of anglers.”

ARC fly line technology features a 6% low-stretch Response Core for superior line sensitivity and improved hook set and features a hard cover that will stand up to the harshest tropical conditions. A grooved line profile reduces guide friction and hang-up, resulting in longer more accurate casts.   All ARC Saltwater fly lines feature a durable, 100% polyurethane cover mixed with a super-slick, hydrophobic PTFE fluoropolymer for extended life and superior line floating. Saltwater lines are available in an ARC Bonefish/Redfish, ARC Tarpon, and the ARC99Salt, a multi-purpose saltwater taper.

“We’re thrilled that a new company like ARC Fishing recognizes the value of BTT’s work for the flats fishery and has such a strong desire to contribute and help us make a difference”, said BTT Director of Operations, Dr. Aaron Adams. “Collaborations like these give the flats fishery a brighter future.”

About ARC Fishing

The Angling Research Company (ARC) is a company dedicated to innovation and angler-centric technology in pursuit of the highest performance fly lines, leaders and tippet material for fly fisherman of all skill levels. They can be reached at info@arcfishing.com or on the web at http://www.arcfishing.com/.

Conservation Captain of the Month: Capt. Richard Black

RichardBlackRedfishThe Conservation Captain for May 2015 is Florida Keys guide Capt. Richard Black. Capt. Richard has volunteered his time and boat to help with a number of BTT research initiatives. Recently, he has been constantly providing bonefish fin clip samples from the Upper Keys area to be included in our bonefish genetics program.

Click here for more info on about Capt. Richard Black.

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

I fish out of the Lorelei in Islamorada and I guide in the Upper Keys and Everglades National Park. I have been guiding for 7 years.

How did you become a fishing guide?

I grew up fishing the Everglades and Upper Keys. Somewhere along the way, taking friends fishing and watching their enjoyment catching fish became more rewarding than catching the fish myself. Passion turned career when I started guiding while earning an environmental science degree in college.

How many days per year do you guide?

About 300 days a year. Some years a little more, some a little less.

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

I’m lucky enough to live in Islamorada, really one of the only places in the world where you can target such a wide variety of inshore and offshore species in the same day. I would say the majority of my days spent on the water are targeting snook, reds, and/or bonefish.

Tell us about how your fishery used to be, compared to today.

Our fishery is ever changing. Like most fisheries we cycle; some years are better for one species than another. How it’s changed…I could write pages on this subject. But, in short, it’s changed by more boating pressure, changing climate, and decreased water flow from the everglades.

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

Freshwater flow. Restore freshwater inflow to appropriate seasonal volumes and timing from the glades.

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

It’s the only place in the world you can super slam (snook, redfish, tarpon, bonefish and permit) and be able to target them in so many different scenarios.

Why do you support Bonefish and Tarpon Trust?

I support BTT because it’s our life support to ensure we have a healthy fishery for years to come.

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

Continuing science on bonefish, the more we know the better we can protect our fishery.

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

Any person that is an angler should care about BTT. Anglers of bonefish and tarpon often live hundreds if not thousands of miles from their favorite target species. Anglers can follow BTT’s work to stay updated with the fishery. BTT is more than an organization that works with bonefish, tarpon, and permit. Their breakthrough fisheries science can be adapted and used in many different fisheries.

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

Snook, redfish and bonefish. I like to call it the Islamorada slam, my preferred method is spin fishing with buck tail jigs. Ideally, I like to target the three inside the Everglades Park boundaries.

Tell us one of your favorite fishing stories.

Taking a family fishing trip with my wife, Brooke and our 13month old daughter. With a little one walking around the boat spinning the handles on all the reels, umbrella deployed, poling around looking for an afternoon bonefish. We were fortunate enough to catch 2 bonefish that day and show our little girl a “ish” as she call’s them. I’m very lucky to have such a beautiful family that enjoys the same passions I do.