Volume 71

Science that Informs Conservation for an Economically Important Sport Fish: Bahamas Case Study

Justin Lewis;Eric Carey;Ross Boucek;Tony Fedler;Bryce Stewart;Aaron Adams
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Date: November, 2018

Pages: 26-27

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

City: San Andres Island

Country: Colombia


Bonefish (Albula vulpes) is an economically important sport fish throughout its geographical range. In The Bahamas, where tourism is the largest industry accounting for 60% of the country’s GDP, the recreational catch and release bonefish fishery has an annual economic impact exceeding $141 million, and has a high cultural value. The majority of fishing for bonefish occurs on the family islands, where rural communities heavily depend on the health of the fishery. Despite the fishery’s importance, the sustainability of the fishery is threatened by habitat loss and degradation, and to a lesser extent illegal harvest. Until recently, data to inform conservation in response to these threats were sparse. We have been collaborating with fishing guides, fishing lodges, and fishers to obtain data on bonefish habitat use and movements. Data from this collaborative work – from scientific research as well as fisher’s ecological knowledge – has led to identification of bonefish home ranges, migratory pathways, and pre-spawning aggregation locations. The partnership with these stakeholders has fostered advocacy for habitat conservation. In fact, fishing guides and anglers have played leading roles in habitat conservation efforts. We work with Bahamas National Trust to incorporate these data into conservation strategies that had led to the recent creation of National Parks to protect bonefish habitats. There is a need to get The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism involved in bonefish conservation efforts, and to better promote the fishery. Currently, the Ministry of Tourism has shown little interest in the recreational bonefish fishery. This is unsettling especially due to the amount of visitors that travel to The Bahamas to fish for bonefish, and the thousands of Bahamians that depend of this sustainable and lucrative fishery.

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