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BTT Science Staff Shine at World Recreational Fisheries Conference

Top scientists who study recreational fisheries recently traveled from around the world for the 8th World Recreational Fisheries Conference, held in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The goal of the conference is to share successes and failures in research and management of sustainable fisheries. The BTT science staff attended and presented summaries of our conservation initiatives. JoEllen Wilson, BTT’s Juvenile Tarpon Habitat Manager, talked about her project working with anglers to map tarpon nurseries in Florida. Justin Lewis, Bahamas Initiative Manager, discussed his work to protect the productive bonefishery in the Bahamas. Dr. Aaron Adams, Director of Science and Conservation, summarized how bonefish, tarpon and permit populations in the U.S., Bahamas and the Caribbean are all connected, and discussed the ways in which we must work internationally to ensure all of the fisheries remain productive. Dr. Ross Boucek, Florida Keys Initiative Manager, discussed our upcoming initiative in the Keys to reduce the number of bonefish, permit and tarpon that are eaten by sharks or other predators while hooked, or after release.

The international research community was impressed by the effectiveness of BTT’s approach to conservation, and how well we collaborated with guides and anglers in this work. Researchers from the UK and Australia were amazed when Justin summarized how BTT’s data was used to implement six new national parks in the Bahamas to protect bonefish habitat. Likewise, researchers from Canada and the Pacific Northwest were blown away by the partnerships that JoEllen built with the angler community, which helps her locate baby tarpon habitat.

At the meeting, we built partnerships with groups from Australia and the UK because of their focus on fish habitats as part of management strategy. The Aussies run a non-profit called OzFish, and have taken an aggressive approach to restoring and protecting murray cod habitat. Murray cod are a freshwater river fish that grow to be 80 pounds and aggressively strike topwater plugs. Martin Salter who was previously a Minister in Parliament and runs The Angling Trust in the UK, works on the policy side, and operates within the legal system to protect vital fish habitat and hold those who destroy habitat accountable. OzFish and The Angling Trust are building an international fish habitat conservation network and invited Bonefish & Tarpon Trust to join them. We can’t wait to start working with these groups. Next year, we hope that Angling Trust and Oz Fish representatives will meet with us in the Keys to see our fishery and help us apply what they have learned to help us fast track habitat conservation in Florida and the Bahamas. The 8th World Recreational Fisheries Conference was a fantastic and productive meeting. It is inspiring to see how much research and conservation is being done across the globe, and to see that BTT is well placed in this conservation effort.