Volume 71

Rethinking Coastal Recreational Fisheries Management for 2020: Using the Florida Shallow Water Recreational Fishery as a Case Study

Ross Boucek;Joellen K. Wilson;Aaron Adams
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Date: November, 2018

Pages: 7-May

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

City: San Andres Island

Country: Colombia


The flats fishery is generally catch and release, and occurs in shallow, clear water environments, where target species are generally sighted before they are caught. Popular species in this fishery are Bonefish, Permit, Tarpon, Snook. As catch and release, these fisheries are generally sustainable and are extremely lucrative to local and regional economies. South Florida, U.S., at one time, hosted a world class flats fishery, but these fisheries are in decline. Declines are due to the exponential growth of both tourism and resident populations, and the lack of forward planning to preserve these fisheries. Here, we summarize recent science on the anthropogenic pathways that are likely responsible for our worsening flats fisheries, and potential solutions that can protect or restore these fisheries. Our overview focuses on 4 dimensions of stress. 1) impacts of increasing effort on catch and release fisheries; snook for instance, even though over 99% of snook are caught and released, individuals are caught so many times that, fishing mortality, via discard mortality, is exceeding natural mortality. 2) Habitat loss, in Florida, 50% of mangrove habitat essential for juvenile tarpon and snook have been destroyed, limiting the ceiling of productivity for those fisheries. 3) Freshwater mismanagement, altered timing, amount, and patterns of freshwater released to coastal systems is killing essential habitats, punctuated by a recent loss of 50,000 acres of seagrass. 4) Nutrient pollution and contaminants, pharmaceuticals, we have found opioids and anti-depressants, are present in high levels in Bonefish tissue, potentially posing a serious threat to our remaining flats fishery. We present this talk as a precautionary note, such that other areas experiencing growing tourism and development can be proactive and develop conservation.

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