Conservation is the name of the game when it comes to the beloved billfish species sports fishermen take pleasure in catching and releasing. Now, thanks to a new program launched by The Billfish Foundation (TBF), headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, fishermen can record the number of fish they've seen, hooked and released in an excel spreadsheet available on TBF's website and send this data back to the organization in order for marine scientists to better monitor billfish stocks in the Caribbean.
"There is a lot of sport fishing going on in the Caribbean," says Elliott Stark, TBF's science and policy specialist. "Yet, the region is very diverse. There are different nations, politics and languages. In addition, billfish stocks vary. For example, there's a number of sailfish off Florida. Puerto Rico and St. Thomas are abundant in blue marlin, the Dominican Republic has a lot of white marlin, and in Venezuela you can catch blue and white marlin, sailfish, swordfish and spearfish."
Stark continues, "Tagging offers important information on the biology of an individual fish. This new program casts a wider net through the help of Caribbean sports fishermen to look at where fish stocks are plentiful and where conservation efforts are most needed and best targeted."
TBF's new Caribbean Tagging and Sportfishing Data Collection Program was just one of the topics presented at Puerto Rico's Club Nautico de San Juan, in November, where a free Sportfishing and Science Panel was hosted by TBF during the 2010 annual meeting of the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI), a scientific organization composed of scientists and researchers from throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. Other topics presented by the panel and TBF President Ellen Peel, included the importance of sargassum (orange-brown seaweed) habitat, Caribbean white marlin spawning grounds, the use and implications of fish aggregating devices (FADs) and seafood processors and conservation.
For more information, visit: billfish.org
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.