26
Jun 18

Florida’s Red Tide Taking a Toll

Approximately 140-pound tarpon photographed by Capt. Tommy Locke outside Cayo Costa

Things are not going well in Southwest Florida… not well at all. Below is BTT’s press release about what they are seeing.

Red Tide is Causing Unprecedented Fish Kills in SW FL

Once again, Florida’s fisheries are suffering from the legacy of long-time mismanagement of Florida’s water resources. Southwest Florida is plagued by an unprecedented red tide that is causing kills of gamefish. Reports from those on the water estimate that tens of thousands of snook are dead – all of them adults in the peak of spawning season. Breeding-size redfish, as well as tarpon, which usually seem to avoid red tide, are also being reported dead. The ongoing red tide is a sign of the ‘new normal’ in Southwest Florida because too many nutrients are entering Florida’s estuaries and coasts due to water mismanagement. Here are the facts:

  • The organism that causes red tide, Karenia brevis, has been present in southwest Florida as far back as written records go – the Spanish wrote about it.
  • Karenia brevis does not benefit directly from the extra nutrients flowing down the Caloosahatchee from polluted Lake Okeechobee, or from the extra phosphorous entering Charlotte Harbor from phosphate mining. This is because other plankton organisms are better initial competitors for those new nutrients.
  • Karenia brevis DOES benefit secondarily from the extra nutrients – once the nutrients have been used by those other plankton species, and then are cycled back into the ecosystem when those organisms die and decay, Karenia brevis goes to work. Consider this the Legacy Effect of water mismanagement.
  • The ongoing red tide is unprecedented in modern times in intensity and duration.
  • Although red tide has always been in the region, the frequency and intensity of red tide events have increased, and red tide events last longer. This is becoming a new pattern, which means events like the ongoing red tide will become more common.

The excess nutrients in Southwest Florida waters are from two sources. First, they are from the high-nutrient water from Lake Okeechobee that is discharged into the Caloosahatchee River as part of water mismanagement in South Florida (the same mismanagement that is killing the Everglades and St. Lucie River). Second, the phosphate mining industry in the Charlotte Harbor watershed produces runoff high in phosphorous, which feeds red tide and other plankton organisms.

Southwest Florida is home to Boca Grande Pass, part of Charlotte Harbor, the Tarpon Capitol of the World. Tarpon gather in Boca Grande Pass and Charlotte Harbor during May and June in association with spawning. It is likely that this red tide will negatively impact tarpon spawning.

Charlotte Harbor is also home to an amazing snook and redfish fishery. During summer months, snook spawn in passes and along beaches. This red tide is impacting spawning snook directly, which will impact the region’s snook population.

This red tide event is the new normal unless the state’s water management policies are changed. This is about the future of Florida’s $8 billion saltwater recreational fishery.

We urge readers to contact their political representatives at the local, state, and federal levels and tell them that policy change is needed immediately.


24
May 18

This is what the voice of reason sounds like

Clint Kemp from Black Fly Lodge in Abaco and the Bahamas Fly Fishing Lodge Association spoke about the regulations battle today. He didn’t have any updates or news to share, but he did have some perspective to share and I think it is worth listening to. So… here’s Clint.


01
Apr 18

Trump reveals abandonment of Puerto Rico part of Conservation Plan

The Trump Administration announced today the rational behind their abandonment of storm ravaged Puerto Rico. Surprisingly, the reasoning was focused on conservation.

Trump released the following statement:

“The Puerto Rico, I hear, is fantastic. My son, not Eric, the other one, the good one, loves to do fishing, he says to me, “Mr. Trump,” he calls me Mr. Trump,” he says to me “Do you ever wonder what it would be like to fish back in the 1800’s?” and I say to him “No,” but it gets me thinking, right, because I’m a great thinker, maybe one of the best thinkers, everyone is saying so, like on Fox they said that this morning, I think, well, if they didn’t say it, someone else did, maybe Carson, and I was thinking I can make Puerto Rico just like it was back in the old days before Russia and back when America was Great, and we are making it great again, you can be sure of that, and I thought, “No power!” Right? So, bam, big storm, not that storm, I mean the hurricane storm, comes and wipes out a bunch of infrastructure and, BAM, now it’s just like it was in the 1800’s and maybe Junior will get down there to fish for a bit and he can tell me what it was like to fish in the 1800’s. So, it is really about, ya know, the fish, #respecttheresource, and I think all these leftists and the failing Washington Post and all that, that they should say Thank You for what we do. I just think they should say Thank You and that’s what I think should happen because I don’t think there has ever been an administration that has done something like this, this forward kind of thinking about going back and the greatness and the people are going to love it.”

At last, the mystery is solved.


30
Mar 18

BTT Shares Concern About Grand Bahama Refinery

Yeah… I agree. This sounds like such a bad project for the things I love.

Justin Lewis in the Bahamas

An open letter by Justin Lewis from BTT

The Rt. Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis,

Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT) is an international non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of bonefish, tarpon, permit—the species, their habitats, and the larger fisheries they support. We work in a broad geography that spans the Caribbean Basin from its easternmost anchor in the Bahamas. Locally, we have worked for many years in the Bahamas, collaborating with the Bahamas National Trust, anglers, guides, fishermen, and other leading NGOs. Studies have shown that the flats fishing industry in The Bahamas contributes in excess of $141 million to the Bahamian economy annually, making it a valuable sustainable natural  that benefits thousands of Bahamians, especially in rural communities.

The Island of Grand Bahama is an area where BTT has placed significant effort and continues to do so because of its expansive healthy flats habitat and thriving recreational bonefish fishery. It is where I, as a native Bahamian working for BTT, am based. Years of research by BTT and our collaborators has identified habitat loss and degradation as the greatest threats to bonefish and their habitats. Developments involving dredging, sand mining, and other manipulations of nature pose a significant threat not only to bonefish but a range of other environmentally and economically important species and habitats.

We received the news of the recently announced OBAN energies development in East Grand Bahama with great interest due to its potential impacts to the flats, coral reefs, and deep ocean—our most valuable natural resources—not only in that area, but along the entire southern side and eastern end of Grand Bahama. The OBAN plans to construct a large oil refinery and storage facility will require significant dredging, which will pose risks to our local marine environment and threaten fresh water aquifers. The 250,000 barrels of heavy crude oil slated for daily production also deserves closer scrutiny. Heavy crude oil is similar to bitumen, which comes from the oil sands of Canada, and has caused significant environmental issues there. Heavy crude emits three times as much CO₂ as regular crude oil and even coal and contains large quantities of heavy metal contaminants and sulfur.

Additionally, the silt created from the large amount of dredging to be done would be carried by prevailing winds and currents to our beaches, aquifers, the flats, and coral reefs along the entire south side and east end of Grand Bahama. Any future oil spill would follow the same path.  Directly in harm’s way would be the Lucayan National Park, East Grand Bahama Protected Area, and the Northside-Gap National Park, which protect important bonefish spawning aggregation sites, bonefish spawning migration pathways, and bonefish flats that support the economically valuable fishery.

In consultation with other stakeholders in the Bahamian flats fishery, particularly in East Grand Bahama, we write to urge the greatest care in assessing this project and its environmental impacts. Topics that should be considered while conducting the environmental impact assessment should include: likelihood of an oil or other chemical spill; if a spill occurs how would it be contained, and where would the resulting pollutants be transported by ocean currents and through the aquifer; what will be the impact to the natural resources that support the travel and tourism industry; what will be the economic costs to the flats fishery due to the loss of anglers; will safeguards be in place in case the project fails or ceases operation.

Thank you for your consideration. As always, please consider BTT an information resource for bonefish and flats conservation efforts. We stand ready to provide assistance—please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Justin Lewis

Bahamas Initiative Manager


04
Mar 18

The most threatened island in the Bahamas… Grand Bahama

I caught my first bonefish in Grand Bahama. I had my last family trip with my mom on Grand Bahama Island. I caught my first DIY bonefish in Grand Bahama. I had my first cracked conch in Grand Bahama. I’ll be adding to those memories when I head back to Grand Bahama in July.

It is a bonefish paradise.

It is also an island under some significant threat.

There are the existing insults to the ecology of the island like the mining operation on the north side of the island.

ugly

There are also the cruise ships and the garbage and spills that come with that. Cruising is not so green. Here’s a report card for cruise ships and it seems like many of those earning F’s also happen to make stops at Grand Bahama.

There are other threats on the horizon.

Those include a second oil storage facility to the east of the current tanks. This project is supposed to dwarf the existing storage. I’m pretty sure I’ve fished (and caught fish) very close to where those tanks would go.

The existing tanks on GBI.

Additionally, on top of the storage is a proposed oil refinery. An oil refinery… on the coast of an island not infrequently raked over by hurricanes. I mean… what could go wrong, right? 250,000 barrels a day in processing capacity.

Luckily, the figures behind the deal are totally, like 100%, totally, very much beyond reproach (sarcasm).

There was also a cruise ship port slated for the East End (or, eastern side, it is unclear to me) of Grand Bahama, although that project got inked and then hardly mentioned since. So… who knows. If it happens it 1. wouldn’t make a lot of sense for me given the location (although it would make sense for the government who would like to not have everything controlled by the Port Authority, a private company that owns a hell of a lot of what is in and around Freeport), and 2. would certainly be less than awesome for the fishery.

This all comes at a hard time for the island with the current close status of the Grand Lucayan, which removed about 59% of the island’s available rooms and about 1,000 jobs. The economic impact is probably greater as many of the businesses that depended on the economic hub that was the Grand Lucayan have taken significant blows to their incomes. There is an LOI in place for a new buyer, but, as many things are in the Bahamas, the details are somewhat murky, lacking a clear process or outcome. You know how much economies love uncertainty.

Jobs may be on offer with the various projects, but it does hit at the sustainable resources that are the heritage of the Bahamian people.

There is a lot of wonderfulness in Grand Bahama. There are miles and miles of pristine coastline and miles and miles of pristine flats. Even if all these projects happen the fishery in Grand Bahama will still be amazing, but it will also probably be slightly less than it is now.

One saving grace may be that these plans are grand in scale, scope and cost and while men are capable of coming up with grand plans, they are often only capable of implementing half-grand plans.


29
Jan 18

#OneCoast and Costa

Well… Costa… good stuff.

I recommend you watch and support their efforts. Looking forward to seeing you again, Keys… looking forward to it.

Go on… book a trip in the Keys.


22
Dec 17

Imagine the Bahamas without conch

It isn’t hard to imagine. I know I’ve seen conch too small to be legally harvested make their way to the shell piles. Here’s a story about measures being proposed to preserve the conch fishery into the future. There is something here about illegal foreign poachers, but all that damage you’d want done could be done by Bahamians themselves as they respond the a huge demand.

Cracked

China is circling the Bahamas, looking for fresh seafood to feed their billion+ people and I bet they’d like some nice conch fritters.

Florida lost their conch. Will the Bahamas follow them?

I hope not. I really hope not. I hope strong measures are taken (and FOLLOWED) in the Bahamas to keep the conch around for generations.


03
Dec 17

Get Lionfish on the Menu

If you see it on a menu, buy it.
If you see it in a store, buy it.

Lionfish.

Damn hoover of an invasive species which is really screwing with reefs in the Caribbean. I’ve seen these fish in Belize. I’ve seen them in Cuba.

Cool story.


14
Nov 17

How to Handle Bonefish

You want your bonefish to live long and prosper after you release it? Well, here are some thoughts. You’ll notice I’m not immune from making bad decisions. I do, from time to time, but I want to be better. That’s the goal.

The risk to the fish by our poor actions is not insignificant. Here’s a post from years ago about that very thing.

For best results, the angler should minimize two things.

  • Air Exposure – How long the fish is out of the water.
  • Handling – How much you touch the bonefish.

This is important because when you release a bonefish back into the salt, there are other things waiting to eat them. They don’t get a chance to catch their breath or recover. A bonefish survives because it can swim faster, react quicker than the sharks and cuda’s trying to eat them and if they are impaired when you let them go they stand a decent chance of becoming food for one of those predators.

Here are the grades of handling for bonefish.

A+ Handling

You have hooked the fish and fought it to the boat. You admire the fish while it is in the water, still swimming, on the end of your line. You reach down with your pliers and simply pop the fly out of the fish’s mouth (since you are fishing barbless).

  • Air Exposure = 0.
  • Handling = 0.

(This is WAY easier to do after you’ve caught about 8 fish.)

B+ Handling

You have hooked and fought a bonefish. Getting the fish to the boat you reach into the water and cradle the fish in your hands. Maybe you take a picture of the fish in the water, maybe even underwater. You unhook the fish and let it swim away.

  • Air Exposure = 0.
  • Handling = A little.

B Handling

You hook the fish, fight it in and you quickly bring the fish out of the water for a picture. The fish is out of the water for just a few seconds.

  • Air Exposure = A little.
  • Handling = Not that much.

South Andros Bonefish. Photo by Andrew Bennett

D- Handling

You hook that fish and get it in. You bring the fish out of the water and hold it, mid-air, out of the water, maybe sitting in the middle of the boat, while your friend or your guide snap a bunch of pictures.

  • Air Exposure = Too Much.
  • Handling = Too Much.

That’s an o’io.

F Handling

You hold that fish up with a boga, in the middle of the boat for a bunch of pictures.

  • Air Exposure = Too Much.
  • Handling = Way, Way, Way too much.

That green hat, my first decent bonefish and some horrible fish handling.

Here is what the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust has to say on the matter.

We all can do better. As I looked through my own pictures I was bummed to see my picture from Hawaii, just recently, that was poor handling. I think it was faster than it looked like, but I could have done better. It is harder to always be in the A camp. I think as long has you have an A- average, you are doing pretty damn well.

Other considerations you should keep in mind are to limit the duration of the fight (get that fish in as soon as you can) and never touch a bonefish with a dry hand (or dry anything).

It really is about education and the more we spread the word and encourage other anglers to learn about how to do things right, most will opt to do things right.


12
Oct 17

BTT auction has some pretty awesome items

I can’t make it to the BTT Symposium. Wish that was on my calendar, but, alas, life has not put that in front of me (work is firing on all cylinders at the moment).

However, you and I can still browse the auction items for the symposium. It is pretty amazing. Check it out here.

Art. Gear. Get-aways. Guided days on the water.

It is all there and there for a good cause.

Pretty awesome.

Pretty sweet