Good news! The easiest way for anglers to help the bonefish population is by catching them!
Bonefish and Tarpon Trust have created a bonefish genetics program that requires angler participation in order to gather data information on bonefish caught all over the Caribbean. Anglers can request genetic testing kits from BTT and take small fin clippings from any bonefish they catch. The fin clippings go into envelopes which are then sent back to BTT for testing. They are looking for bonefish samples caught anywhere in the Caribbean, including Florida, Central America, South America, Bahamas, and Turks & Caicos.
Here’s what we know so far. Bonefish spawn in deeper waters under full moons in the middle of winter. The bonefish larvae that hatch from the eggs drift in the open ocean for an average of 53 days, some washing up onto local flats and others getting pushed by stronger currents which take them farther away. This is the point at which we need more knowledge about bonefish habits. We don’t know if protecting spawning grounds and bonefish habitat is a local issue, or if the conservation net must be thrown wider in order to give bonefish the best odds.
From Bonefish & Tarpon Trust:
“In collaboration with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, University of Massachusetts, Cape Eleuthera Institute, and Fisheries Conservation Foundation, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust is launching a three-year Bonefish Genetics Program. The goal of this program is to analyze the genetic population structure of bonefish throughout the Caribbean and Western Atlantic to determine the extent that bonefish populations in different locations are related. This will help us to decide how much we have to focus on a regional vs local conservation strategy.”
Any angler that provides more than 5 fin clippings will win a BTT sun buff and provide valuable information about bonefish distribution.
We talked to participating guide Captain Carl Ball, who will often take fin clippings while he’s out with clients. “For the most part clients enjoy the fin clipping. Clients like to see that we are doing something to learn more about the bonefish. I think they like to see that their guide is involved in conservation of the species. I tell them what it’s all about and let them know they get their name on a bonefish so they feel like they are making a contribution to the research. I let them know how delicate bonefish are and how important it is to handle them properly for a photo.” Captain Carl also explained why he prefers fin clipping to tagging. “Fin clipping is better than tagging and clipping. The tagging takes longer and is more harmful to the fish. Especially bonefish.”
“I think that whatever BTT can come up with to learn more about bonefish is important. Through BTT we have already learned so much about the bonefish, but there is much more to know about their migration, breeding habits and their [natural] habitat so it is very important to continue studying these fish in a way that is least harmful to them.”
Cover image by @outgoing_angling