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BTT Monitors Bonefish Pre-Spawning Activity in Belize

Bonefish porpoise at the surface to gulp air before swimming offshore to spawn at night. Photo: Dr. Addiel Perez

This past November and December marked the third year of collaborative efforts in conservation in Belize. BTT’s Belize-Mexico Program Manager, Dr. Addiel Perez, worked with personnel from Hol Chan Marine Reserve, and several stakeholders, including Omar’s Freelance Fishing and El Pescador Lodge and Villas, to study a bonefish pre-spawning aggregation.

The joint monitoring of two pre-spawning aggregating sites (PSAs) of bonefish in Belize began two years ago. This year an additional two pre-spawning schools were documented. Identifying such sites for protection is important, because bonefish are most vulnerable during their pre-spawning migration and in PSAs.

The threats to bonefish on their migrations and in the PSAs are illegal harvest (bonefish are catch and release only in Belize), recreational fishing of the PSAs, habitat degradation of the PSA sites, and recreational activity. Recreational fishing of the PSAs is tempting because there are so many bonefish in one place, but is discouraged because these fish are especially vulnerable to being eaten by predators while hooked or after being released. Habitat degradation, such as dredging and docks, makes the PSA sites unusable by the bonefish. A lot of recreational activity, such as boat or jet ski traffic, disturbs the PSAs.

Bonefish is one of three species that supports Belize’s flats fishing, which generates more than $56 million US dollars for the nation annually. Bonefish in Belize are also important to Florida, as larvae from spawning sites in Belize drift to the Florida Keys. If you see any possible bonefish spawning behavior in Belize or Mexico, such as schooling or gulping air at the surface, please contact Dr. Perez at: addiel@bonefishtarpontrust.org.