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Tarpon and Bonefish Protected in FloridaWhy this is so...

Posted on November 22 2013

Tarpon and Bonefish Protected in Florida

Why this is so challenging I have no idea but GIANT kudos to Florida for taking the necessary steps to protect these fish in their waters. They are worth FAR more as a game fish than something harvested. From Alex Lovett-Woodsum:

There will be a chapter written in a book about what the commission did today.” Those were the final words of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Chairman Kenneth Wright after the FWC made the decision to make tarpon and bonefish catch-and-release only in the state of Florida.

On June 12th the small town of Lakeland, Florida, the FWC made this monumental decision, coming on the heels of the hotly debated, six-hour long deliberation about jig fishing in Boca Grande Pass, this topic was discussed for less than an hour and was met with very little opposition. The commission passed the legislation unanimously, and the new regulations went into effect on September 1st.

After the favorable ruling, commissioner Brian Yablonski said, “this is the most significant thing we can do for tarpon.” This new legislation made Florida the first state to protect bonefish and tarpon, and marked the most protective legislation ever passed in the U.S. South Carolina followed suit, passing more protective tarpon legislation a few months
later. The legislation in Florida was many years in the making, and was an issue that Bonefish and Tarpon Trust put a lot of resources into. At the Lakeland meeting, the commission remarked that hundreds of BTT supporters had written in to the commission prior to the vote in favor of the new legislation, and that was an important factor as they evaluated the decision before them.

BTT believes that science-based conservation—learning as much as possible about the fishery and habitat—is the key to making informed management decisions. A recent BTT study valued the Florida Keys flats fishery at a whopping $460 million a year, showing how economically important it is to protect the flats fisheries. BTT funded studies have also demonstrated the importance of proper fish handling to maximize the chances of a fish surviving post-capture. This is why we are doing extensive fish tagging in the U.S. and the Bahamas—we need to know more about these fish and the habitats. It is this type of information that
is often taken into consideration when making management decisions, and can ultimately affect change.

Another important key to successful management is angler education. BTT works hard to ensure that the angling public is informed not only about important new regulations like these, but the importance of properly fighting and handling fish before release, even down to what equipment you should use to maximize the chances a fish will survive post-release. It is a privilege for all of us anglers to use these amazing resources we have, but it is also our duty to serve as stewards for the fisheries so that they will be around for generations to come.

If you need a refresher, the newly adopted bonefish and tarpon regulations include the following provisions:

• Eliminating all harvest of tarpon with the exception of the harvest or possession of a single tarpon when in pursuit of an IGFA record and in conjunction with a tarpon tag.
• Keeping the tarpon tag price at $50 per tag but limiting them to one tag per person, per year.
• Modifying the tarpon tag program, including reporting requirements and shifting the start and end date for when the tarpon tag is valid.
• Requiring that tarpon remain in the water and are released near the site of capture.
• Discontinuing the bonefish tournament exemption permit that allows tournament anglers to temporarily possess bonefish for transport to a tournament scale (this brings the state in line with similar rules in the National Parks in the Keys).

original content Alex Lovett-Woodsum, PR and Communications Manager for Bonefish and Tarpon Trust
photo Dave McCoy

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