Bonefish and tarpon are perhaps the most spectacular game fish in terms of speed and fighting power. They occur worldwide in warm subtropical and tropical coastal waters, appearing in extremely shallow near-shore "flats" environments as well as offshore on the coral reefs. The Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, in cooperation with Bonefish and Tarpon Unlimited, collaborate in an effort linking fishery scientists, professional guides, leaders from Florida's angling industries, and State and Federal resource managers in research focused on fisheries population dynamic and stock assessment. Their purpose is to improve the decision-making capacity for managing these amazing game fishes.
Florida Keys fisheries for bonefish and tarpon are world renown. Florida accounts for more than half of the world records for bonefish and tarpon listed by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA 2005). The Florida recreational fisheries for bonefish and tarpon also support multi-billion dollar industries. Great interest in bonefish and tarpon fishing has helped to fuel the explosive growth of recreational angling in south Florida.
At present, an urgent concern expressed by those most knowledgeable about regional bonefish and tarpon fisheries suggests that these resources are declining. At the same time, Florida's marine environment is undergoing extensive changes. Concerns about the effects of rapid growth of the human population, recreational fishing fleets and ongoing environmental changes are magnified by the fact that overfishing is decimating other popular sport and commercial fisheries in the Florida Keys.
Despite the enormous economic value of the industry and the strong public appeal of these precious resources, the health and status of Florida's bonefish and tarpon stocks are not known. Additionally, recent impacts on the fishery have never been adequately evaluated. To increase public awareness of the importance of protecting these resources in the face of increasingly significant human impacts on the coastal marine environment, the Rosenstiel School has developed a technically sound program for bonefish and tarpon research in South Florida. The conservation research program is designed to promote better understanding of stock dynamics paramount to the sustainable future of these valuable fisheries. Principal research findings are:
• Migratory Patterns of Atlantic Tarpon,
• Bonefish Tag-and-Recapture, Acoustic telemetry tracking of bonefish movements,
• Recruitment and Habitat Use of young-of-the-year Bonefish and Permit,
• Bonefish Population Structure,
• Census of the Florida Keys Bonefish Population,
• Bonefish Age and Growth,
• Bonefish Tournaments,
• Outreach to Support Decision-making.
Bonefish and Tarpon Conservation Research Program led by the University of Miami
Sanctuary Friends Foundation has contributed over $250,000 for the last 6 years.