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Conservation: The Florida Keys Initiative

The Florida Keys are recognized as the birthplace of flats fishing and the center of the universe for modern flats-fishing aficionados.

By Dr. Aaron Adams

Despite this long history and the continued fervor of flats anglers in pursuit of the Big Three, we find ourselves fighting for the health of the flats that have provided so much to so many for so long. With our new Florida Keys Initiative, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust is ramping up the fight to protect these valuable fisheries, their history and culture.

bonefish

Although still a world-class destination for flats fishing,the Keys habitats and fisheries are not being cared for as they should. Water flowing from the Florida Everglades, for example, is highly altered and contains a slew of nutrients and contaminants. Furthermore, the when, where, and how much of fresh water flows from the Everglades is greatly altered from its natural pattern. These changes, in turn, impact the habitats of the Florida Keys, which in turn affect the fisheries. The same challenges affect fisheries around the US and indeed around the world, but the importance of the Keys internationally to flats fishing makes this an especially important fight.

The first step in the Florida Keys Initiative in 2012 is to fund a project that will examine any changes in the types, amounts and locations of bonefish prey. Such changes could be affecting where and when we find bonefish. This study will be completed by year’s end and will help steer future work. BTT also plans to fund the first-ever study to determine the economic value of the Florida Keys flats fisheries. Believe it or not, despite the immense importance of flats fisheries to the Keys, such a definitive study has never been done. The results of the study can serve as leverage as BTT pushes for more conservation attention for bonefish, tarpon and permit and their habitats.

Nice permit – Capt. Justin Rea photo

As is always the case, BTT will work closely with Florida Keys guides to chart the course of this initiative as well as to help complete the research to ensure that our advocacy will be effective for protection of the Big Three.

Information!

NOTE: Aaron Adams is the Director of Operations for Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, and a Senior Scientist at Mote Marine Laboratory > www.tarbone.org

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