July 21, 2016
By Jonathan Wright
The Bonefish and Tarpon Trust a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to the preservation of Bonefish, Tarpon and other saltwater gamefish, issued press stating that a new research intiative started in May 2016 has already produced findings that potentially will affect science's perceptions of the Silver King. New data could alter conservation strategies and legislation directed at protecting the species.
Alexandra Lovett-Woodsum, Director of Development & Communications for the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, reports that a new tracking program designed to monitor the movements of different age and size classes of Tarpon is already paying big dividends.
Says Woodsum, "BTT began to acoustically tag tarpon this past May in an effort to expand on knowledge of tarpon habitat use and movement at different life stages. We just received report of the first tarpon detection from BTT's acoustic tarpon tagging program, and it has provided fascinating new insight on tarpon movement.
"Helios is an approximately 45-pound tarpon sponsored by Perk Perkins, CEO of The Orvis Company. It was caught on a live crab and tagged in late May in the Lower Florida Keys by BTT scientists from UMass Amherst and Carleton University, and was the second fish ever tagged as part of the program. We just received word from colleagues that their receiver near Port Orange, Florida detected Helios in late June. This relatively small tarpon traveled over 400 miles in a month!"
Historically, biologists were of the opinion that only adult Tarpon engaged in migratory behavior, and typically in the Lower Caribbean, with some tagged specimens shown to move across the Gulf of Mexico between Florida to Central and South America. BTT's new findings indicate that mid-size Tarpon appear to be on the move up the Atlantic coast of Florida as well.
"This detection is really special because it's the first time we have been able to actively track fish in this size rangeâ€”previous satellite tagging efforts funded by BTT were limited to tagging fish 80 pounds or larger." Continued Woodsum, " A 45-pound fish like Helios is years from becoming sexually mature, which has been considered the size that tarpon start longer distance migrations. It's also pretty remarkable that it traveled so far in a short period of time."
"This underscores the importance of acoustic tagging to provide new insight into tarpon movement and habitat use during different life stages, and will provide information that is critical to BTT's conservation efforts. Stay tuned for more recaptures and fascinating new insights on these amazing creatures."