Bahamas Conservation Update

 

BTT Final 2CwTag

August 5, 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.

Netting Slim

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):

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.

Haley, V. Acoustic Telemetry Studies of Bonefish (Albula vulpes) Movement Around Andros Island, Bahamas: Implications for Species Management" (2009). FIU Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Paper 140. http://digitalcommons.fiu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1168&context=etd

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.

Video:

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

    

This video discusses the ongoing genetics and tagging studies: