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Juvenile Tarpon Habitat Restoration

A first of its kind juvenile tarpon habitat restoration project is planned near Boca Grande, Florida.  Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, in collaboration with The Lemon Bay Conservancy are working together to identify and restore appropriate habitat for juvenile tarpon.

Juvenile tarpon require very unique habitat, their ability to gulp air from the surface allows them to live in water that contains very little oxygen.  These areas support little in the way of predators to juvenile tarpon – larger fish need oxygenated water, and wading birds have a tough time getting into the typically well overgrown areas.  Mucky backwater mangrove and marsh areas where emerging mosquitoes at dusk make it hard to breathe are ideal.  With enough food (other small fish are also adapted to these habitats) and cover to keep them safe for a year or so the young tarpon will relocate from these areas and begin to use more open habitats.

Healthy fisheries depend on healthy habitats, many juvenile tarpon habitats have already been lost due to development, and in some areas these habitats are under new threats.  There is an urgent need to protect and restore juvenile tarpon mangrove nursery habits.

BTT is raising funds in order to conduct a two year research assessment both before and after the restoration is complete in order to fully document the restoration’s effectiveness in creating viable juvenile tarpon habitat.  This is the first of potentially many habitat restoration projects for juvenile tarpon so a thorough evaluation of the project area prior to and after the restoration is complete is critical in determining effectiveness and impacts to future projects.

How you can help! The cost for the two-year research project is $120,000. This will fund a graduate student and others to do the work. So far, we have raised $60,000. Donors include: True Flies LLC, The Sanibel Fly Fishers Club, The Vanderbilt Family Foundation, and numerous individual donors.

When you consider that the tarpon fishery in the Boca Grande area has an economic impact of more than $110 million per year, it’s a small investment. This will be the first ever study on tarpon habitat restoration and it starts in August 2012.  To learn how you can donate to this project, please contact jking@bonefishtarpontrust.org. Or go straight to the Donate Now page, and put “juvenile tarpon” in the referral box.

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