July 5, 2016
The end of the Tarpon Population Genetics program is in sight. Sorry to say for those who were using the program as an excuse to go fishing in far-away places – field sampling is complete as of July 1st. Now it’s all about analysis. We will have a report by the end of the year, which will provide some fascinating insights about tarpon. Thanks to anglers and guides, we received nearly 2,500 samples from 25 locations around the world, in addition to the 20,000 we have from the FWC’s prior collection in Florida. We have samples from around the U.S. and Caribbean and from far-flung locations like West Africa, Brazil and Suriname. Thank you to each and every one of you who participated.
The program will give us a better handle on the extent that tarpon throughout the region
and the world are related. Do we have several small semi-isolated populations or one large mixed population? We know that large adult tarpon can migrate long distances, which might suggest that we have one large population, but we also know that other adult tarpon seem to stay in relatively small regions. Plus, some of the previous work by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (remember their jaw-scrape program?) suggested that some tarpon show high site fidelity – they return to the same places each year.
Why does it matter? The results of the program will give us guidance on conservation. If there is a single, large population, then a negative impact in one location (such as the loss of juvenile habitats, harvest of adults, or loss of a spawning location) would have impacts on the populations and fisheries for the entire region. If, however, there are multiple regional populations that aren’t well connected, then the best approach would be to prioritize conservation measures for each region. For example, in one region the greatest threat to tarpon might be harvest, but in another region the greatest threat might be loss of juvenile habitats. In this scenario, rather than devise a one-size-fits-all strategy, each region would have its own conservation approach.
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