Tarpon Genetics Program

BTT Tarpon Genetics Program:

Sample Tarpon, Help The Fishery

One of the core questions that we need to answer to ensure a strong tarpon conservation plan is: Is the Atlantic tarpon population made up of one large population or many smaller sub-populations? The satellite tagging data have shown that some adult tarpon migrate long distances, indicating that regional management is warranted. But at what scale? Are tarpon in Mexico the same tarpon that swim in Florida waters? Do tarpon mix between the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico? Where are juvenile tarpon spawned – do they come from local spawning locations or do they travel as larvae from far-away spawning sites? To what extent do fishing pressure and harvest in one location impact the fishery in other locations? To what extent does the tarpon fishery in the Florida Keys depend on a sub-population, share tarpon with a larger regional population, or a mixture of these scenarios? Given recent advances in genetic science, the best way to address this important topic is through genetic analysis.

In collaboration with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust is launching a two-year Tarpon Genetics Program. The goal of this program is to analyze the genetic population structure of tarpon to determine if there is a single, regional tarpon population or multiple sub-populations. This will determine to what extent the overall tarpon conservation strategy should focus on a single, regional-scale approach, or on multiple, local-scale, conservation measures.

holding tarponHow You Can Help: Go fishing for tarpon. Please. And when you catch a tarpon, please collect a scale. We’ll provide you with envelopes for saving the scale and collecting information like location, date, and tarpon size. Then just send us the completed envelopes. Collecting the scale for genetic analysis is that simple. The hardest part is catching the tarpon.

Thanks to FWC’s long-running tarpon genetics program, we have samples from most of Florida. We are most in need of samples from locations outside of Florida – Caribbean, Central America, South America, southeastern US, Gulf of Mexico. We are most interested in samples from these under-sampled locations, but samples from Florida are also welcomed.

We are using scales in this study because they are much easier to transport, especially for international travelers, and to send in the mail.

To obtain a kit of tarpon scale sample envelopes, please contact us: info@bonefishtarpontrust.org, or 321-674-7758.

As if you needed an excuse to go tarpon fishing, there’s not a better one than this – it’s all for conservation.

Although we generally do not condone removing scales from tarpon on a regular basis, we feel this is the best method for obtaining this important information for conservation. Tarpon do lose scales on occasion through natural means, and are able to grow new scales. We require only one scale per tarpon.