Volume 71

Keeping Up with the Silver King: Connecting the Spatial Ecology of Atlantic Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) to Conservation Strategies

Lucas Griffin;Jacob Brownscombe;Aaron Adams;Steven Cooke;Andy Danylchuk
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Date: November, 2018

Pages: 342-343

Event: Proceedings of the Seventy Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute

City: San Andres Island

Country: Colombia


Understanding the nature of migratory behaviors within animal populations is critical to develop and refine conserva-tion and management plans. However, tracking migratory marine animals across life stages and over multiple years is inherently difficult to achieve. In this talk, we explore the use of cooperative acoustic telemetry to characterize the spatial ecology of Atlantic tarpon (Megalops atlanticus), elucidate the ecology of this poorly studied but economically important species, and ultimately inform conservation and management. We report on the extensive collaboration of agencies, institutions, guides, and anglers who help track and monitor tarpon movements from the Gulf of Mexico to the eastern USA seaboard. Anecdotal information from anglers and fishing guides suggests tarpon populations have declined since the 1930s (Adams et al. 2013). Considering this fishery within the USA is a minimal harvest fishery, it is surprising this suspected population decline has occurred. Habitat degradation and fragmentation at various life stages may be attributing to this decline (Lotze et al. 2006). Tarpon have a complex life cycle and utilize multiple habitats across their life phases, juveniles require nearshore back-water systems and will remain here for multiple years, after emigration from the nursery habitat, sub-adults move into coastal environments and eventually recruit into adult populations (Adams et al. 2013). These sub-adult and adult tarpon are believed to exhibit migratory behaviors to some extent (Luo et al. 2008). Considering these migratory fish may be moving across multiple political and social jurisdictional boundaries, these fish may encounter threats that vary both in space and time. Thus, it is critical to understand their spatial ecology across multiple life stages. To fill this knowledge gap, we have designed and implemented an acoustic telemetry tarpon tracking project. Here, we present on the first three of five years of data collection.

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