Bahamas Conservation Update 07-27-2015

July 27, 2015

Given all of the recent conversation about the state of bonefishing in the Bahamas, we thought it timely to share an update on the progress that has been made by our Bahamas Initiative collaborations toward science-based conservation of the Bahamas bonefish fishery. The goal of our long-standing research effort is to provide the information about bonefish and their habitats that is necessary to formulate an effective, comprehensive conservation strategy that focuses on habitat conservation, education, and appropriate regulation. Although a lot has already been accomplished by a long list of collaborators, much is still ongoing, and we are moving forward with ever-expanding programs.

Science Collaborators: Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, Fisheries Conservation Foundation, Cape Eleuthera Institute, College of the Bahamas, Bahamas National Trust, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Carleton University, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, University of Illinois, Friends of the Environment, The Nature Conservancy, Florida International University.

Lodge and Guide Collaborators: Abaco Fly Fishing Guides Association, Abaco Lodge, Bair’s Lodge, Black Fly Lodge, Andros South, Deep Water Cay, Swain’s Cay, Flamingo Cay Club, South Abaco Adventures, H2O Bonefishing, North Riding Point Club, East End Lodge, Delphi Lodge, Mangrove Cay Club.

List of Projects by Collaborators: 

Habitat Use: We have used and continue to use extensive tag-recapture and acoustic telemetry to identify bonefish home ranges, spawning migration pathways, and spawning sites. We are conducting field sampling to identify habitats for larval settlement and juveniles (life stages of bonefish most anglers rarely encounter, yet are critical to the maintenance of any fishery) and to understand their feeding. We are conducting seascape-level assessments of bonefish movements to understand how bonefish use the mixture of coastal habitats. Work has been conducted or is ongoing on Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island, Abaco, Andros, the Exuma Cays, Long Island, Cat Island, as well as the Turks and Caicos Islands. National Parks have been proposed to protect these important habitats on Grand Bahama and Abaco.

Catch-and-Release Angling: We have conducted extensive research to determine the effect of catch-and-release angling on bonefish, which includes understanding best handling practices, bonefish physiology, and post-release predation. This information is being used to formulate education and outreach programs to help ensure that guides and anglers are using the best methods possible to promote high survival of released bonefish.

Population Connections: We are using high-resolution genetic analyses to determine the recruitment and connectivity patterns of bonefish populations among the islands of The Bahamas. The results will allow us to determine if local populations are self-supporting or are reliant on recruits from other islands, and as a result to find the best way to manage the fishery.

Bonefish Behavior and Physiology: We are using field and laboratory studies to understand bonefish behavior, feeding, physiology, and bioenergetics, not just under current environmental conditions, but also in the face of future climate change. This information will help formulate better fisheries and habitat management strategies for the future.

Human Environmental Impacts: We are studying how numerous potential human-induced environmental alterations impact bonefish, including how light pollution affects the behavior of juvenile bonefish and the physiology of adult bonefish, how contaminants in the ocean affect habitat use, reproduction, and the presence of disease.

Education: Cape Eleuthera Institute hosts over 1000 international students and more than 400 local students every year. Coastal ecosystem conservation is a focus of their programs. Friends of the Environment regularly runs field courses for students from Abaco. Science collaborators regularly give presentations about bonefish research and conservation at schools and at fishing lodges.

Scientific Articles Produced by the Bahamas Initiative Collaboration (35 papers since 2004): 

Adams, A.J., R.K. Wolfe, M.D. Tringali, E.M. Wallace, and G.T. Kellison. 2008. Rethinking the status of Albula spp. biology in the Caribbean and Western Atlantic. In: J.S. Ault (ed) Biology and Management of the World Tarpon and Bonefish Fisheries. CRC Press. Boca Raton, FL.

Adams, A.J., A.Z. Horodysky, R.S. McBride, T.C. MacDonald, J. Shenker, K. Guindon, H.D. Harwell, R. Ward, and K. Carpenter. 2013. Conservation Status and Research Needs for Tarpons (Megalopidae), Ladyfishes (Elopidae), and Bonefishes (Albulidae). Fish and Fisheries. 15(2):280-311.

Adams, A and K.J. Murchie. 2015. Recreational fisheries as conservation tools for mangrove habitats. Pages 43-56 in K.J. Murchie and P.P. Daneshgar (Eds.), Proceedings of the Second International Symposium on Mangroves as Fish Habitat. Mazatlán, Mexico. American Fisheries Society, Symposium 83, Bethesda, Maryland.

Brownscombe, J. W., J. D. Thiem, C. Hatry, F. Cull, C. R. Haak, A. J. Danylchuk & S. J. Cooke. 2013. Recovery bags reduce post-release impairments in locomotory activity and behavior of bonefish (Albula spp.) following exposure to angling-related stressors. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 440:207-215.

Brownscombe, J.W., L.F. Gutowsky, A.J. Danylchuk and S.J. Cooke. 2014. Foraging behaviour and activity of a marine benthivorous fish estimated using tri-axial accelerometer biologgers. Marine Ecology Progress Series 505: 241-251.

Cooke, S.J., C.D. Suski, S.E. Danylchuk, A.J. Danylchuk, M.R. Donaldson, C. Pullen, G. Bulte, A. O’Toole, K.J. Murchie, J.B. Koppelman, A.D. Shultz, E. Brooks, and T.L. Goldberg. 2008. Effects of capture techniques on the physiological condition of bonefish Albula vulpes evaluated using field physiology diagnostic tools. Journal of Fish Biology 73:1351-1375.

Cooke, S. J., A. J. Danylchuk, S. E. Danylchuk, C. D. Suski & T. L. Goldberg. 2006. Is catch-and-release recreational angling compatible with no-take marine protected areas? Ocean & Coastal Management. 49:342-354.

Cooke, S.J., and D.P. Philipp. 2004. Behavior and mortality of caught-and-released bonefish (Albula spp.) in Bahamian waters with implications for a sustainable recreational fishery. Biological Conservation.   118:599-607.

Cooke, S.J. and D.P. Philipp. 2008. Improving the sustainability of catch-and-release bonefish (Albula spp.) fisheries: insights for anglers, guides and fisheries managers. pp. 359-381. In: The World Biology of Tarpon and Bonefish. J.Ault, G. Kelley and R. Humston (Eds.). CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.

Dallas, L. J., A. D. Shultz, A. J. Moody, K. A. Sloman & A. J. Danylchuk. 2010. Chemical excretions of angled bonefish Albula vulpes and their potential use as predation cues by juvenile lemon sharks Negaprion brevirostris. Journal of Fish Biology. 77:947-962.

Danylchuk, A. J., S. E. Danylchuk, S.J. Cooke, T. L. Goldberg, J. Koppelman & D. P. Philipp. 2006. Do bonefish (Albula vulpes) use mangroves for protection from predators following catch-and-release angling? Proceedings of the Gulf Caribbean Fisheries Institute. 59:417-422.

Danylchuk, A. J., A. Adams, S. J. Cooke & C. D. Suski. 2008. An evaluation of the injury and short-term survival of bonefish (Albula spp) as influenced by a mechanical lip-gripping device used by recreational anglers. Fisheries Research. 93:248-252.

Danylchuk, A. J., S. E. Danylchuk, S. J. Cooke, T. L. Goldberg, J. Koppelman & D. P. Philipp. 2007. Ecology and management of bonefish (Albula spp) in the Bahamian Archipelago.pp. 73-92. In: In the World Biology of Tarpon and Bonefish. Ault, J. S., (Ed.). CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.

Danylchuk, A. J., S. E. Danylchuk, S. J. Cooke, T. L. Goldberg, J. Koppelman & D. P. Philipp. 2007. Post-release mortality of bonefish (Albula vulpes) exposed to different handling practices in South Eleuthera, Bahamas. Fisheries Management and Ecology, 14:149-154.

Danylchuk, S. E., A. J. Danylchuk, S. J. Cooke, T. L. Goldberg, J. Koppelman & D. P. Philipp. 2007. Effects of recreational angling on the post-release behavior and predation of bonefish (Albula vulpes): The role of equilibrium status at the time of release. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 346:127-133.

Danylchuk, A.J., S.J. Cooke, T.L. Goldberg, C.D. Suski, K.J. Murchie, S.E. Danylchuk, A. Shultz, C.R. Haak, E. Brooks, A. Oronti, J.B. Koppelman, and D.P. Philipp. 2011. Aggregations and offshore movements as indicators of spawning activity of bonefish (Albula vulpes) in The Bahamas. Marine Biology 158:1981-1999.

Murchie, K.J., A.D. Shultz, J.A. Stein, S.J. Cooke, J. Lewis, J. Franklin, G. Vincent, E.J. Brooks, J.E. Claussen, and D.P. Philipp. In Press. Defining adult bonefish (Albula vulpes) movement corridors around Grand Bahama in the Bahamian Archipelago. Environmental Biology of Fishes. 00:000-000.

Murchie, K.J., S. Clark Danylchuk, A.J. Danylchuk, and S.J. Cooke. 2015. Fish community and habitat assessments of three adjacent tidal creeks on Cape Eleuthera, The Bahamas. Pages 67-80 in K.J. Murchie and P.P. Daneshgar (Eds.), Proceedings of the Second International Symposium on Mangroves as Fish Habitat. Mazatlán, Mexico. American Fisheries Society, Symposium 83, Bethesda, Maryland.

Murchie, K.J., S.J. Cooke, A.J. Danylchuk, S.E. Danylchuk, T.L. Goldberg, C.D. Suski, and D.P. Philipp. 2013. Movement patterns of bonefish (Albula vulpes) in tidal creeks and coastal waters of Eleuthera, The Bahamas. Fisheries Research. 147:404-412.

Murchie, K.J., A.J. Danylchuk, S.J. Cooke, A.C. O’Toole, A. Shultz, C. Haak, E. Brooks, and C.D. Suski. 2012. Considerations for tagging and tracking fish in tropical coastal habitats: lessons from bonefish, barracuda, and sharks tagged with acoustic transmitters. In. Adams, N.S., Beeman, J.W, and Eiler, J.H. (eds.) Telemetry techniques: A user guide for fisheries research. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD. pp. 389-412.

Murchie, K.J., S.J. Cooke, A.J. Danylchuk, S.E. Danylchuk, T.L. Goldberg, C.D. Suski, and D.P. Philipp. 2011. Thermal biology of bonefish (Albula vulpes) in Bahamian coastal waters and tidal creeks: an integrated laboratory and field study. Journal of Thermal Biology 36:38-48.

Murchie, K.J., S.J. Cooke, A.J. Danylchuk, and C.D. Suski. 2011. Estimates of field activity and metabolic rates of bonefish (Albula vulpes) in coastal marine habitats using acoustic tri-axial accelerometer transmitters and intermittent-flow respirometry. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 396:147-155.

Murchie, K.J., S.J. Cooke, and A.J. Danylchuk. 2010. Seasonal energetics and condition of bonefish from different subtropical tidal creeks in Eleuthera, The Bahamas. Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science 2:249-262.

Murchie, K.J., S.E. Danylchuk, C.E. Pullen, E. Brooks, A.D. Shultz, C.D. Suski, A.J. Danylchuk, and S.J. Cooke. 2009. Strategies for the capture and transport of bonefish, Albula vulpes, from tidal creeks to a marine research laboratory for long-term holding. Aquaculture Research 40:1538-1550.

Nowell, L.B., J.W. Brownscombe, L.F.G. Gutowsky, K.J. Murchie, C.D. Suski, A.J. Danylchuk, A. Shultz and S.J. Cooke. In Press. Swimming energetics and thermal ecology of adult bonefish (Albula vulpes): A combined laboratory and field study in Eleuthera, The Bahamas. Environmental Biology of Fishes. 00:000-000.

Seyoum, S., E.M. Wallace, and M.D. Tringali. 2008. 12 polymorphic microsatellite markers for the bonefish, Albula vulpes and two congeners. Molecular Ecology Resources 8: 354-356.

Shultz, A.D., K.J. Murchie, C. Griffith, S.J. Cooke, A.J. Danylchuk, T.L. Goldberg, and C.D. Suski. 2011. Impacts of dissolved oxygen on the behavior and physiology of bonefish: implications for live-release angling tournaments. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 402:19-26.

Shultz, A. D., Z. C. Zuckerman, H. A. Stewart & C. D. Suski. 2014. Seasonal blood chemistry response of sub-tropical nearshore fishes to climate change. Conservation Physiology. 2:1-12.

Suski, C.D., S.J. Cooke, A.J. Danylchuk, C.M. O’Connor, M-A. Gravel., T. Redpath, K.C. Hanson, A.J. Gingerich, K.J. Murchie, S.E. Danylchuk, J.B. Koppelman, and T.L. Goldberg. 2007. Physiological disturbance and recovery dynamics of bonefish (Albula vulpes), a tropical marine fish, in response to variable exercise and exposure to air. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part A 148:664-673.

Suski, C. D., S. J. Cooke, A. J. Danylchuk, A. C. O’Connor, M. A. Gravel, T. Redpath & K. C. Hanson. 2007. Physiological disturbance and recovery dynamics of bonefish (Albula vulpes), a tropical marine fish, in response to variable exercise and exposure to air. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology. 148:664-663.

Stein, J. A., A. S. Shultz, S. J. Cooke, A. J. Danylchuk, K. Hayward & C. D. Suski. 2012. The influence of hook size, type, and location on hook retention and survival of angled bonefish (Albula vulpes). Fisheries Research. 113:147-152.

Szekeres, P., J.W. Brownscombe, F. Cull, A.J. Danylchuk, A.D. Shultz, C.D. Suski, K.J. Murchie and S.J. Cooke. 2014. Physiological and behavioural consequences of cold shock on bonefish (Albula vulpes) in The Bahamas. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 459:1-7.

Wallace, E.M. 2014. Redescription of Albula goreensis Valenciennes, 1847 (Albuliformes: Albulidae): a cryptic species of bonefish in the A. vulpes complex, with designation of a neotype. In: Assessing biodiversity, evolution, and biogeography in bonefishes (Albuliformes): resolving relationships and aiding management. University of Minnesota Dissertation, ProQuest LLC, Ann Arbor, MI. 123pp.

Wallace, E.M. 2014. Fishery composition and evidence of population structure and hybridization in the Atlantic bonefish species complex (Albula sp.). In: Assessing biodiversity, evolution, and biogeography in bonefishes (Albuliformes): resolving relationships and aiding management. University of Minnesota Dissertation, ProQuest LLC, Ann Arbor, MI. 123pp.

Wallace, E.M. 2014. Multilocus phylogenetic assessment of bonefishes: (Teleostei: Elopomorpha: Albuliformes) supports recognition of sympatric cryptic species and further revision to the order. In: Assessing biodiversity, evolution, and biogeography in bonefishes (Albuliformes): resolving relationships and aiding management. University of Minnesota Dissertation, ProQuest LLC, Ann Arbor, MI. 123pp.

Wallace, E.M. and M.D. Tringali. 2010. Identification of a novel member in the family Albulidae. Journal of Fish Biology. 76: 1972-1983.

Reports and Popular Press:

Adams, A.J. 2014. Ecological Assessment of bonefish (Albula vulpes) in Grand Bahama Island and the Marls of Abaco. Prepared for The Bahamas National Trust.

Adams, A.J. 2015. Searching for connections. Southern Culture on the Fly magazine. Spring 2015. (http://www.southerncultureonthefly.com/scof_spring2015.html)

Adams, A.J. and A.J. Danylchuk 2012. Sweet release: Take the proper precautions after the catch. Fly Fishing in Salt Water May/June 2012:32-33

Cooke, S.J., A.J. Danylchuk, and A. Adams. 2007. The science of handling and releasing bonefish. This Is Fly 4: 87-95 (www.thisisfly.com/?|=481).

Danylchuk, A.J. 2015. The Release: The fundaments of fish and the path to responsible angling. This Is Fly May. 50:60-64

Jud, Z. 2014. Rapid Ecological Assessment of bonefish (Albula vulpes) populations in Cross Harbour, Abaco, The Bahamas. Prepared for The Bahamas National Trust.

Murchie, K.J. 2009. Stalking the flats in the name of science. Fisheries 34:38.

Numerous popular press articles on Bahamas bonefish conservation have appeared each year in the Bonefish & Tarpon Journal, which can be accessed online here (http://www.bonefishtarpontrust.org/btt-publications/btt-publications.html)

Numerous articles have appeared in Bahamas newspapers, including:

Conservation Corner: The importance of mangroves for our fish. The Eleutheran.

Collaborative research on exuma will have conservation implications for important nearshore species. The Eleutheran.

Bonefish are bustin’ a move in Grand Bahama. The Eleutheran.

The science behind movement: tracking bonefish spawning migrations around Grand Bahama Island. Coastal Angler Magazine.

Focus on healthy bonefish population imperative. Nassau Guardian, New Providence

Focus on healthy bonefish population imperative. Freeport News, Grand Bahama

Bahamian and international organizations partner to better understand bonefish ecology. Eleutheran. Eleuthera.

Videos:

This video summarizes some of the ongoing tagging and tracking work:

This video discusses the ongoing genetics and tagging studies:

Collaborative Recommendations for a Bahamas Comprehensive Conservation Plan

btt logoAs many know, the Bahamas Ministry of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Local Government recently released draft proposed regulations for the bonefish fishery. We praise the Ministry for taking on the challenge of devising a new plan for the economically and culturally important bonefish fishery.

Bonefish & Tarpon Trust provided comments that focused on the need for a comprehensive conservation and management plan that incorporated the threats of habitat loss and degradation. Many others in the flats fishing industry also provided comments.

As a follow up to previous position statements, BTT has collaborated with many in the flats fishing world to craft a revised approach to creating a comprehensive conservation and management plan for the Bahamas bonefish fishery. The recommendations are intended as constructive contributions to the ongoing efforts, not as a proposed management plan. All those who have signed on to this document have an interest in the long term health of the fishery, and from many different perspectives – guides, lodge owners, travel outfitters, fishing trade associations, conservation science. It is notable that this diverse group reached a consensus on this document as a focal point for moving forward. The hope is to find a comprehensive conservation plan that includes conservation, education, and enforcement that will ensure a healthy bonefish fishery for the future.

Click here to read the new recommendations and to add your signature to the support list.

 

Conservation Captain of the Month: Capt. Wes Bedell

Timage2he Conservation Captain for July 2015 is Capt. Wes Bedell out of Naples, Florida. Capt. Wes has been incredibly active for BTT, tagging numerous permit for the Project Permit program.

Click here for more info on about Capt. Wes Bedell.

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

I have been a guide in Naples, Florida for 16 years now.

How did you become a fishing guide?

I have had a passion for fishing since I was 13 years old so when I realized that I could make it a career, it was a no-brainer. To love what you do is a dream job!

How many days per year do you guide?

About 200, but when I’m not working I am out with my son who also wants to be a fishing guide.

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

I would say my most requested species is Permit. The beauty and mystery of this fish just makes for an epic charter, and of course the scream of the drag and the fight that you get from a Permit just seals the entire experience.

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

There has been a steady decline in the number of fish compared to 5 years ago. In my fishery I haven’t really seen a decline in numbers of fish but the numbers of anglers that are pursuing them has tripled.

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

I think that if we could get the Permit on the game fish / sport fish list and make 0 bag limit for these fish could make a huge difference.

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

It is in my blood, I will always support our fisheries. For me fishing is not just my job it is a way of life.

Why do you support Bonefish and Tarpon Trust?

There is so much to know about the habits of Permit. I’m excited to have one of my tags called in to see where it’s been. Bonefish and Tarpon Trust provide that. It’s all about preserving this beautiful fishery. The more we know the better we are to sustain it.

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

BTT has stepped up to protect our game fish. Without their work in conservation efforts I think the fish we love would be in trouble.

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

My northern clients come down to fish with me & can’t wait to help me tag Permit. They want to help sustain the fishery. I get all of my anglers involved.

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?

Mostly Permit. I usually go anywhere from 2 to 20 miles offshore to find them. I like a good fight, so I use the lightest tackle possible and for bait I use blue and pass crabs.

Tell us one of your favorite fishing stories.

I find the best fishing stories are the ones that haven’t been told yet…..

Project Belize Bonefish Tagging Trip: Belize River Lodge, May 2015

AAdams-6193How many times have you seen this segment to start a flats fishing video: a group of anglers at the airport waiting for their departing flight, their arrival at their destination, rigging their gear; or maybe instead it starts with a pre-dawn crawl from bed, drive to the boat ramp, the skiff sliding off the trailer into calm water as dawn colors the sky. The next segment tends to be images of a skiff skimming across water that mirrors the sky above. Then comes the fishing and the fish and the fun that goes with it. Scan the video offerings on YouTube, Vimeo, and countless web sites and you can blow an entire work week viewing these videos, an entire day viewing just the best ones.

More-so tAAdams-6298han the similarities in the video storyboards, they all have one thing in common – the implicit assumption that the opportunity for you to have this same experience will be there tomorrow, next week, next year. That assumption is flawed. There are places that were once off the charts in terms of fishing quality that have declined so much that no modern-day aspiring videographer would even venture there to today. And chances are that some of the places we see in videos today won’t make the cut 10 years down the road. And even some places that get the video treatment today are mere shadows of their former selves. There are but a handful of places left that haven’t suffered to some extent.

So we have a choice – consider the old places to be lost causes and continue to find the next frontier, or work with the people in the old places to protect what is still healthy and bring back what has suffered. You know where BTT stands on this, and I’m happy to report that many others are working with us on conservation of the old places. This brings us to a recent trip to Belize.

In late May, a BTT team traveled to Belize River Lodge to work with the lodge guides to catch and tag bonefish. But this time instead of fishing, we used nets to target schools. The guides have been doing a fantastic job tagging bonefish with their anglers, but the nets allowed us to tag a greater number of bonefish in a short amount of time. The more tagged bonefish swimming on the flats, the better the chance an angler has at recapturing one. And since the goal of the tagging program is to identify priority habitats and locations for conservation and protection, the more data we get in a short amount of time the better.

Belize River Lodge hosted the tagging team for four days of tagging on the flats of central Belize. The BTT team consisted of Aaron Adams and Justin Lewis from BTT, as well as volunteers Marc Grimes (from Florida) and Jon Pierre Windsor from University of Belize. Also joining us were: two scientists from ECOSUR in Mexico – Dr. Juan Schmitter-Soto, and Addiel Perez who will be conducting a tag-recapture study of bonefish in Chetumal Bay and Corozal Bay along the Belize-Mexico border; Claudia Brenner from the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development. It’s great to see the effort spreading.

This video tells the story well. Thanks to Marc Grimes for producing the video.

2015 Permit Tournaments Benefit BTT

Spring is the time for permit fishing. That also means that spring is the time for permit fishing tournaments. Earlier this year, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust was the grateful recipient of donations from two of those fantastic tournaments. Proceeds from the 2015 March Merkin Permit Tournament, as well as the 3rd Annual Palometa Club Permit Tournament, were donated to BTT and will go directly towards critical permit research.

The 2015 March Merkin Permit Tournament was held in mid March and saw 25 teams of permit enthusiasts battle it out for the chance to be crowned Grand Champion. After 3 tough days of fishing, Nathaniel Linville of Key West caught and released four permit to win the tournament. Linville, who released one permit on the tournament’s first fishing day and three on the second, scored 332 points to become the tournament’s Grand Champion angler along with his guide John O’Hearn of Big Pine Key, Fla.

Click here to view photos from the tournament on the March Merkin Facebook page.

On April 10-17, Mexico’s Palometa Club hosted their 3rd Annual Permit Tournament. The Palometa Club once again teamed up with Patagonia Clothing Company and Hatch Reels as the lead sponsors for the annual event to benefit BTT’s Jon Ain Fund, as well as the schoolchildren of Punta Allen, Mexico. The event raised over $6000 in charitable proceeds from the entry fees, calcutta, and individual donations!

The tournament crew enjoyed a week of stunning conditions with lots of sun, a few days of scattered clouds, and a normal dosage of manageable wind. There were not a ton of fish around be Ascension Bay standards, however numerous permit were brought to hand. In the end, the angling team of Mike Gifford & David Leake ended up with the most points thanks to the guide team of Big Julio & Sammy.

Click here for more info and photos from the 3rd Annual Palometa Club Permit Tournament.

FWC Votes Unanimously to Move Forward With New Regulations for Barracuda

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Photo: Pat Ford

We are pleased to announce that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted unanimously at their meeting on June 25, in Sarasota, to move forward with new regulations for barracuda. This vote moves the process forward to a final vote on the new regulations at the next Commission meeting on September 2-3, in Fort Lauderdale. Although the final vote is still needed, we are confident that the new regulations will be implemented at the September meeting. This would not have been possible without the collaboration with the Lower Keys Guide Association and Florida KeysKeeper.  In addition, BTT thanks FWC staff for their hard work on this issue, to all of the guides and anglers who participated in this process, and to the FWC Commissioners for voting in favor of these much needed regulations.

Read the full press release from FWC: http://myfwc.com/news/news-releases/2015/june/25/barracuda/

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 click here.

Biscayne National Park releases final General Management Plan

Click to enlarge the map

Earlier this month and after fourteen years of planning, Biscayne National Park published their final general management plan. The working alternative has been named “Alternative 8” and is a combination of previous alternatives 4 and 6, pulling together spatial management concepts from both. In general, the plan has little impact on the flats fishery. In most cases, proposed zones for flats fishing areas are accessible by regular travel or slow speed and remain fishable. Other areas, such as the Featherbeds, will now be non-combustion engine use zones, but will remain accessible by push pole and trolling motor. The plan will be progressively implemented over the next few years.

For more info on the plan click 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.