Tarpon Federal Gamefish Initiative

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Bonefish & Tarpon Trust believes that making Atlantic tarpon (Megalops atlanticus), the “Silver King”, a Federal gamefish, is necessary to conserve tarpon for the recreational, economic and environmental benefit of present and future generations of Americans.  Tarpon are prized saltwater fish that can live in excess of 80 years and grow to well over 250 pounds, making them especially susceptible to overfishing. Tarpon sport fishing contributes more than $6 billion annually to the regional economies of coastal southeast US and Gulf of Mexico from Virginia to Texas.

Although primarily a catch-and-release fishery, sustainable tarpon populations are under threat from numerous sources including, critical natal habitat losses, unnecessary U.S. harvests by hook-and-line and spears in some states due to lack of regulations, and directed commercial and subsistence harvests by long-lines and gill nets in Mexico, Cuba and the broader Caribbean.  Evidence of non-sustainable US tarpon fisheries already exists.  Port Aransas, Texas, once known as the “Tarpon Capital of the World”, and a host to presidents and potentates for exceptional tarpon fishing in the 1950s, today has declined so greatly that the catch of a single tarpon today warrants special mention.  New satellite-based tagging research has shown that tarpon undergo extensive long-range migrations throughout the Gulf of Mexico, southeastern Atlantic US coast (seasonally as far north as Virginia), and Caribbean Sea.  This means that the tarpon fishery relies on a single shared regional population, and thus requires an integrated regional and international management plan.

Regulations in many States and neighboring countries are either nonexistent or not adequate to sustain tarpon populations.  To protect these vital fisheries and their associated economies tarpon must be declared a Federal Gamefish.  This listing would spur States to collaborate on the integration and enactment of regulations to protect the tarpon fisheries, and allow the United States to begin negotiations with other national entities to ensure tarpon receive sufficient regional protection.  Federal Gamefish status for tarpon would further the administration’s efforts to end over-fishing, and advance cooperative conservation based on sound science and in cooperation with State, territorial, and local governments, the private sector, and others, as appropriate.

Since tarpon are good indicators of coastal ocean health and climate change due to their use of coastal wetlands and estuaries as juveniles, and nearshore and coastal oceanic habitats as adults, Federal Gamefish status for tarpon would support ongoing efforts toward large-scale coastal and ocean management plans.  Federal Gamefish for tarpon would ensure that the Commerce and Interior Departments work together with regional fishery management councils and commissions to improve the quality of our data and provide more accurate scientific records and research about sustainable tarpon population levels.  Protection would also encourage States to examine their management of tarpon stocks, prohibit sale or possession of tarpon caught in federal waters, and directly facilitate the cooperation of federal and State fisheries managers to ensure that State and federal regulations protect this important fishery.  Declaration of tarpon as a Federal Gamefish will underscore the administration’s commitment to conserving the nation’s resources, and encourage the cooperative conservation between federal and state agencies that is necessary to ensure sustainable fisheries.  Federal gamefish status will also provide leverage for working with neighboring countries to institute an international regional management plan for tarpon.

How you can help:

Contact your representatives to the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, and voice your support for this important initiative.

Please email bob@bonefishtarpontrust.org if you would like to donate to this initiative or become a Corporate Sponsor.