Progress Made in Search for Keys Spawning Sites
June BTT Newsletter / Bonefish & Tarpon Trust / June 28, 2022
Over the course of the 2021-22 bonefish spawning season, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust made several promising advances in its efforts to locate bonefish pre-spawning aggregation (PSA) sites in the Florida Keys. BTT scientists are utilizing acoustic telemetry and the historical knowledge of veteran fishing guides to find these nearshore areas where bonefish school by the thousands before migrating offshore to spawn in deep water. BTT has previously identified spawning sites in the Bahamas, Belize, and Cuba.
BTT Florida Keys Initiative Manager Dr. Ross Boucek and his team tagged 50 bonefish and logged more than 1400 unique bonefish detections, of which 965 were at a site where several guides reported a potential PSA. Nine bonefish detected at the suspected PSA site had been tagged at distant flats, including a fish tagged 50 miles away.
“Identifying bonefish PSAs in the Florida Keys is essential to conserve the species and ensure the long-term health and sustainability of the fishery,” said Dr. Boucek. “We have to make sure that their spawning activity isn’t negatively affected by marine use or water quality stresses.”
Tag detections have occurred at multiple moon phases, including near the full moon in December, near the new moon in January, and near the new moon in March. Special tags that record the depth a bonefish achieves have revealed a maximum descent to 300 feet. Based on previous research BTT has conducted in the Bahamas, scientists are certain that this deep dive is indicative of a spawning event in the Florida Keys.
“These data represent a significant progress in our multi-year project that will identify bonefish PSAs in the Keys,” said Dr. Boucek. “We will continue to analyze the data, and look forward to applying it to advance our search next spawning season.”
BTT Releases Short Film Narrated by Michael Keaton
“Protecting Our Saltwater Flats,” narrated by actor Michael Keaton, overviews the results of BTT’s Bonefish Pharmaceutical Contaminants Study and highlights the urgent need to modernize South Florida’s outdated wastewater treatment systems. Donate to BTT to help us fight for clean water and healthy flats.