This week, scientists at Bonefish and Tarpon Trust broke ground at their newest Juvenile Tarpon Habitat Restoration site by setting up antenna arrays that will be used to track juvenile tarpon movements within a series of canals. This project, being done in conjunction with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, Florida Department of Environmental Protection Charlotte Harbor Buffer Preserve, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, will turn what are now old canals from a long-abandoned development into juvenile tarpon habitats. The crew made their way into the new site early Tuesday morning and were able to assemble 4 antenna arrays at a number of strategic locations. “The first step is to see how the fish currently use the canal system,” said JoEllen Wilson, BTT’s Juvenile Tarpon Habitat Program Manager. “Then once the restoration is complete, we will continue to sample to see if the tarpon prefer one type of habitat over another.”
BTT scientists will return later this year to begin the sampling. Sampling includes capturing juvenile tarpon with cast nets and seine nets, taking measurements, and then tagging the individual fish with PIT tags. When a tagged fish passes through one of the antenna arrays the antenna will log the date, time, and the unique tag number.
Juvenile tarpon depend upon shallow, backwater habitats for at least the first 2 to 3 years of their lives. Common characteristics include:
- Mangrove or other fringing vegetation that provides structure and protection from bird predators;
- A mixture of depths – primarily shallow with some deeper pools for fish to congregate when water levels decrease;
- Tidal exchange through narrow, shallow passages that keeps predatory fish away;
- Freshwater inflow;
- Calm backwaters.
As coastal human populations continue to increase, coastal ecosystems and the fisheries they support are becoming increasingly stressed due to factors such as habitat loss and degradation. Therefore, there is an urgent need to protect and restore these critically important habitats.
BTT thanks its collaborators the Southwest Florida Water Management District, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, Florida Department of Environmental Protection Charlotte Harbor Buffer Preserve (especially Mr. Jay Garner), and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
For more info on the Juvenile Tarpon Habitat Initiative, or to help out this initiative by becoming a member, please visit www.btt.org