The Bonefish & Tarpon Trust is the preeminent authority when it comes to bonefish, tarpon, and permit conservation and advocacy. In recent years, BTT was instrumental in securing conservative regulations at the Western Dry Rocks, a well-known and essential permit spawning area in the Florida Keys. And just this week, the group announced an historic investment to monitor permit spawning sites throughout the Keys.

Permit anglers at the Western Dry Rocks were losing too many fish to shark predation. This was obviously a serious concern, as these incredibly economically valuable fish were there attempting to successfully spawn–and a lot them. For example, research by BTT identified Western Dry Rocks as a critically important spawning site for permit in the Lower Florida Keys. Approximately 70 percent of tagged permit from the Lower Keys aggregated at the Western Dry Rocks. To make matters worse, subsequent studies also found that more than one-third of hooked permit at the site were lost to shark predation.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission agreed that something needed to be done. Last year, the Commission approved a four-month long no fishing closure at the Western Dry Rocks to protect spawning permit.

This $600,000 investment by BTT will continue that effort through a three-year monitoring study at the Western Dry Rocks and other permit spawning sites. The goal of the project is to give the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has the data to validate the effectiveness of the permit-spawning closure.

“We can’t overstate the importance of this analysis for fisheries management and how appreciative we are to our partners at Bonefish & Tarpon Trust,” said FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto. “Working together on this important research initiative helps to ensure Florida’s status as the Fishing Capital of the World.”

This type of collaborative research is a truly effective strategy for fisheries management, especially when it comes to protecting some of these world-renowned fisheries like Key West’s permit.

“This is a significant, multi-year investment by our organization,” said BTT President Jim McDuffie. “And a necessary one. Conserving Keys permit requires that we understand and effectively manage the conditions that optimize their spawning. This research goes to the very heart of our efforts to ensure a sustainable permit population in the Keys.”

Cover picture courtesy of BTT/Dr. Lucas Griffin

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