BTT was founded in 1997 by a group of six anglers concerned that the bonefish population in the Florida Keys was declining and nobody was taking active steps to monitor or reverse it. They resolved to learn more about the causes of the decline and contracted with University of Miami to search existing literature and prior studies on the issue, of which there was very little.
A few years later, the group formed Bonefish and Tarpon Unlimited, and brought together a group of 60 Founding Members representing the “Who’s Who” of saltwater flats fishing. In the early days, the board kicked off initial research projects, worked to build public awareness and recruit members. Initial research efforts focused on bonefish tagging to collect much-needed data on population baseline, size, growth, and range of movement and satellite tagging of tarpon to learn more about their movement patterns.
As the organization and funding grew, so did BTU’s scope of work. The first Bonefish and Tarpon Research Symposium was held in 2003, bringing together 20 participating scientists and a large group from the public. The next symposium was held three years later (and every three years since), hosting 35 scientists. This represented significant progress from BTU’s founding six years earlier when nobody was actively engaged in bonefish or tarpon research.
In 2009, BTU became Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT). The following year, the first annual journal was published, which highlighted the research and conservation efforts for bonefish, tarpon and permit and their habitats. The circulation the first year was 2,500 and has since grown to over 15,000, focusing not only on research and conservation but also fishing articles, angler profiles, photos and more.
Around 2010, BTT began to broaden its geographic scope, focusing research and conservation efforts in the Bahamas, Cuba, Belize and Mexico and expanding its work to include permit and other flats species.
In recent years, BTT has applied its scientific credibility and research efforts to policy and regulation advocacy in Florida and throughout the Caribbean. This has included work with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to revise and improve regulations for bonefish, tarpon, permit and barracuda, and work in the Bahamas to create National Parks to protect critical bonefish spawning locations BTT identified from future development.
BTT continues to work with a number of collaborating institutions to expand our knowledge of the fisheries through research, educate the public about issues facing the fisheries, and is working with FWC and other agencies at the national and international level to improve the conservation regulations for bonefish, tarpon, permit and their habitats.