BTT Accomplishments

BTT's objective is to protect and enhance critical flats habitats, reverse the decline of flats species, and use research findings to influence policy, educate the fishing community and improve resource management for long-term stewardship. BTT has many ongoing and completed research projects and initiatives that have achieved significant results in our efforts to learn about, protect and restore bonefish, tarpon and permit fisheries and habitats. Very little was known about the three species when BTT was founded, and scientific results from our efforts are critical to informing fisheries management and educating the public. 

Bonefish

Worked with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to make bonefish a catch-and-release species in Florida.

Provided funding to research that determined spawning habitats and seasons in the Bahamas, which will inform similar efforts in other locations.

Using bonefish spawning research, worked with the Bahamas Government and collaborators to establish eight National Parks on Abaco and Grand Bahama designated to protect bonefish spawning locations from development. BTT is working to identify and protect spawning habitats in other areas.

Funded a study that determined that the recreational bonefish fishery in The Bahamas is worth >$141 million per year, which helps BTT make a case for the importance of protecting bonefish and their habitats.

Provided funding to research and conducted tagging documenting that most bonefish remain in relatively small areas (they are caught within a few miles of where they were tagged), but some bonefish move >100 miles for spawning. Tagging previously occurred in Florida, and is now taking place in the BahamasMexicoBelize, and Cuba. 

Provided funding to research that determined the best practices for bonefish for catch-and-release, and produced an educational brochure and catch-and-release education campaign to publicize these findings and educate anglers about best handling practices for bonefish.

Funded a study to examine whether changes in bonefish prey are affecting the bonefish population and fishery in the Keys. It appears that prey loss is not a major factor in the decline of the fishery, so other factors like water quality and contaminants are being considered.

Provided funding to research that determined that there are three species of bonefish that occur on the flats of the Caribbean. Since different species have different habitat requirements, this information is essential to creating a viable conservation strategy.

  • Albula vulpes (Common Bonefish) is 95% of the fishery
  • Albula garcia (Bigeye Bonefish) is >4% of the fishery
  • Albula sp (not yet named, just discovered) is >1% of the fishery

Determined that Bigeye Bonefish juvenile habitats are sandy beaches, where this species is >96% of juvenile bonefish (Common Bonefish are also present, but only <4%).

Through research, determined that bonefish in the Florida Keys grow two to three times faster than in the Caribbean.

  • A 23” bonefish in the Florida Keys = 6 years old
  • A 23” bonefish in the Caribbean = 16 years old

Tarpon

Worked with the FWC to make tarpon a catch-and-release species in Florida.

Worked with the FWC to pass regulations that tarpon over 40” in length must remain in the water.

Provided funding to satellite tagging research that documented long-distance (inter-state and international) migrations by adult tarpon, but also that some adults appear to remain in smaller home ranges. Further research is being conducted through acoustic tagging and genetics sampling.

Providing funding to research to identify tarpon spawning locations.

Funded research on the effects of catch and release on tarpon, which determined that in general they handle responsible catch and release well.

Based on findings from previously funded research, launched the collaborative Juvenile Tarpon Habitat Initiative to identify, protect, and restore juvenile tarpon habitat. BTT currently has restoration projects ongoing near Boca Grande, FL and Charleston, SC to help determine the best habitat management for juvenile tarpon to guide future restoration efforts.

Permit

Worked with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to improve regulations for permit, which resulted in new regulations that took effect in 2011. 

Determined that sandy, windward beaches are the only nursery habitat for juvenile permit.

Collaborating to conduct the first ever tagging program for permit through both dart and acoustic tagging. This program was initiated in Florida in 2010, and expanded to Belize and Mexico in 2011, and grew to include acoustic tagging in 2016. The results will be used to inform fisheries management and in Florida will help determine whether the current regulations are sufficient.

 General

Funded a study finding the economic value of recreational fishing in the Everglades to be $991 million per year.

Funded a study finding the economic value of flats fishing in the Florida Keys to be $465 million per year.

Worked with guides and anglers to create GIS maps of Everglades National Park to aid in the management revision process.

Worked with the FWC to improve regulations for barracuda, a critically important flats species.

Sponsored and hosted five international science symposia bringing together guides, anglers, lodges, scientists and other stakeholders to share findings on bonefish, tarpon, and permit research and conservation.

Publish a widely distributed annual magazine, the Bonefish & Tarpon Journal, that shares science and conservation information with anglers, guides, managers, and the public.