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SIMMS Renews Silver Sponsorship of Bonefish & Tarpon Trust’s Florida Keys Initiative

SIMMS, a leading manufacturer of fishing gear and apparel, has renewed its Silver Sponsorship of Bonefish & Tarpon Trust’s Florida Keys Initiative, which seeks to protect, restore and conserve the Keys’ flats fishery through research and education.

“Protecting our fisheries has been a priority for SIMMS since it was founded,” said Casey Sheahan, SIMMS’ CEO. “During these turbulent times, we feel that supporting strong organizations like Bonefish & Tarpon Trust is critical right now to ensure the long-term health of these wonderful waters and the fish we love.”

While the Florida Keys remains one of the world’s top destinations for flats fishing, its habitats and fisheries are threatened. The number of flats classified as “severely degraded” due to propeller scarring has increased 90 percent over the past 20 years. Water flowing into Florida Bay from the Florida Everglades has been reduced due to water mismanagement, and much of the water flowing into South Florida and the Keys is compromised by a slew of nutrients and contaminants. These changes, in turn, impact the habitats of the Florida Keys, which then affects the fisheries.

As BTT works to restore the Keys’ habitats and water quality, the organization has taken other steps to improve the future of the fishery: bonefish and tarpon are now catch and release only, and the Keys are managed as a Special Permit Zone with strict regulations to maintain a healthy permit population. BTT recently completed the acoustic tagging phase of Project Permit with 150 fish, producing 1.5 million detections to date, and used data to frame a new campaign in 2020 to protect spawning permit at Western Dry Rocks, the most important permit spawning site in the Lower Keys. BTT is also at work identifying bonefish spawning sites and juvenile nursery habitats for protection. Earlier this year, scientists tracked a female bonefish tagged near Big Pine Key on a 30-mile migration to a suspected spawning site, representing a major step forward in the search for bonefish spawning locations in the Florida Keys.

Meanwhile, BTT continues to research tarpon movements and habitat use through the Tarpon Acoustic Tagging Project. To date 185 fish have been tagged, producing nearly 200,000 detections across seven states.The results will help shape future conservation measures, including the protection of critical habitats and improvements to fishing regulations. Data from the project was instrumental in securing the passage of a new tarpon catch-and-release amendment in North Carolina earlier this year.

“SIMMS is well known for its great fishing products and widely respected for its enduring commitment to conservation,” said BTT President and CEO Jim McDuffie. “We are grateful for the company’s support and continued partnership on the flats.”