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Bonefish & Tarpon Trust: A Bahamas Conservation Update

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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.

GeneticsEnvelopePopulation 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). Click here to view . . .

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