Education

There are numerous challenges to conservation of the flats fisheries and habitats: 1) lack of knowledge about the fisheries and their economic, ecological, and cultural importance; 2) lack of understanding by government bodies about the long-term economic, cultural, and ecological implications of the loss of these fisheries and habitats; 3) ignorance about the fisheries and their habitats by the general non-fishing population; 4) inadequate knowledge about the need for conservation by anglers; and 5) illegal fishing, destructive fishing, and habitat loss and degradation.  Education is the key to addressing these challenges and reducing these threats.

Education of citizens, and their changes in attitude, will provide the best chance for leading the government in the right direction. In many cases we have enough scientific understanding for actionable knowledge, but not yet a method for disseminating it. A key goal of the education program will be to provide this knowledge to enable informed decisions about coastal resource use and fisheries conservation.

The overall goal is to apply available science (biology, ecology, economics) of coastal recreational fisheries through an education campaign to change local attitudes about conserving these resources. An advantage to protecting bonefish, tarpon, and permit is that they act as umbrella species for many other species and coastal habitats, so will have far-ranging, positive, conservation implications. They are also flagship species that are recognized around the world for their ecological and economic importance, increasing the likelihood of international financial support.

Word of mouth and person-to-person contact is the key component in education and follow-up. In addition, other forms of media (cell phones, radio, internet, televisions) are ubiquitous, and can be used as education tools. Guides are generally respected in their communities, many are already relatively well-versed in local biological knowledge, and they have a vested interest in success of this program. Training the guides to become leaders in this education campaign will increase the likelihood of success. The guides are part of the systems being targeted for conservation, so can be leaders in the effort. As the knowledge about the importance of these species and their fisheries is disseminated, it is anticipated that general attitudes will change among many. These new attitudes will serve to enforce, in part through peer pressure, the necessary protections of these species and their habitats.

BTT is able to conduct and present science and is good at incorporating conservation science into outreach. However, education is best accomplished by collaborating with local groups that have knowledge of local community characteristics. Therefore, as part of the Education program, BTT will collaborate with local organizations that are experienced in environmental education.