Customer Service. Community. Conservation.
In May, Florida Fishing Products was able to help conservation partner: Bonefish & Tarpon Trust with their Permit tagging program in southwest Florida. Although named Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT), this 501©3 non-profit is also known for their efforts in restoring the historic water flow from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades and their ground-breaking research surrounding the third and debatably the most sought-after of south Florida’s Gamefish: the elusive, Permit.
The goal of Costa's Project Permit is for BTT to obtain information about permit movements and habitat use so they can improve conservation efforts surrounding this gamefish. Project Permit addresses these important questions:
1. Do permit act like bonefish and stay in relatively small home ranges, or regularly move longer distances?
2. Is the Special Permit Zone in the Florida Keys large enough to protect the fishery, or do Keys permit migrate north into unprotected areas where harvest levels are high?
3. Do individual permit go to the same location each time they spawn, or use multiple locations?
4. Can data on permit movement patterns be used to help guide spatial management zones in the upcoming Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary revised management plan?
What BTT is doing to learn more about Permit:
Step 1- Dart Tags
BTT is using dart tags in an ongoing effort to better understand permit movement. So far, they have recaptured 18 fish, 17 of which were tagged and recaptured in the Florida Keys. One permit that was tagged in Biscayne Bay was recaptured and harvested over 60 miles north of where it was originally caught. So far it appears permit have relatively small home ranges, but this project is ongoing and can use your help!
You can email [email protected] to request a tagging kit.
Step 2- Acoustic Tracking
In September 2015, BTT began a three-year project that uses acoustic tracking to determine permit movements in the Lower Keys. Small acoustic transmitters, each with a unique subsonic ping, is surgically implanted into permit and later able to be tracked as permit make traverse near receivers planted at various reefs throughout Florida. The goal is to place transmitters in 30 permit during each year of this study.
The pings from the transmitters will be detected by an array of 60 receivers placed in the Lower Keys. If a permit swims in range of a receiver, it will be detected and recorded. If any of the permit are detected by scientific colleagues' receivers in the Keys and along the coasts of Florida, they will be reported to BTT.
Background and Justification
1) Sufficient information is lacking on permit biology and fisheries in all locations where a fishery exists. Information to support management is urgently needed.
2) Threats to permit include loss and degradation of juvenile habitat, unknown impacts of harvest and catch and release, lack of protection for spawning grounds.
In an effort with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to improve permit regulations, BTT, using their Permit research, was able to help able to help with the implementation of a Special Permit Zone (SPZ) from Biscayne Bay south to protect permit from harvest during spawning season. The tagging work is ongoing and the information we are gathering will helps determine whether current regulations are sufficient to sustain the fishery in the long-term.
We want to give a HUGE thank you to Capt. Bill Hammond and Capt. Matt Johnson of Endless Summer Charters for making this all possible. Without their knowledge and skill of Permit fishing in southwest Florida and willingness to put us on the fish, this project would not have been possible. Also, a HUGE thank you to Dr. Ross Boucek of Bonefish & Tarpon Trust for joining us on the water and teaching us about this ground-breaking permit research.