Tarpon rescue highlights habit loss

There was a heartwarming re-homing for a school of over 60 tarpon this fall compliments of the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT). Concerned anglers called the Coral Gables, Florida-headquartered conservation organization about an isolated and rapidly draining pond on a site slated for development near Tarpon Springs. With permission of the developer and property owner, BTT Juvenile Tarpon Habitat Program Manager JoEllen Wilson was granted a permit by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to relocate the fish. Wilson and her team then spent a long day yet successful day of seining and cast-netting in waist-deep mud and silt to move the school of 12- to 40-inchers to a place where they could rejoin the regional tarpon population.

“As highlighted by this recent rescue event, the greatest threat to the tarpon fishery is habitat loss and degradation. In fact, this is true for many fisheries, including snook. Despite the success of this event, this approach is not effective in the long-term. Instead, anglers must push state, county, and local resource management agencies to practice habitat conservation. And in locations where habitat restoration will work, this should be a top priority. It’s all about the future of the fishery,” says Wilson. www.bonefishtarpontrust.org 

Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.