20
Nov 18

Five Generations of Bones

Cool little video on the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust homepage at the moment which tells the story of bonefish spawning patterns, uncovered by science.

We’ve long suspected some of this stuff, but now we know. Populations are connected. Most bonefish DON’T travel from Andros to the Florida Keys, but their little, tiny, adorable bonefish babies don’t stay put. They travel on the currents from Andros to Cuba, around Cuba and up to the Keys. So, that monster West Side bonefish will beget that monster Keys bonefish, just in a few generations.

That means Bahamas conservation and Cuban conservation are really Florida bonefish conservation. That’s pretty key to know.

Consider joining BTT this holiday season. They do great work.

Norman tagging a bonefish for BTT


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.


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.


20
Jun 17

Some good news from Florida

It didn’t escape my notice that something good happened in Florida last month.

Here is that news, from the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. 

Basically, this move should help with those horrid, toxic discharges from earlier this year.

And in case you are wondering why that matters…


24
Jan 17

Tutorial on how to ruin a good thing – Belize edition

Honeymooners, Belize, 2012.

Belize is not a big country. It’s 330,000 people, plus or minus, makes it smaller in population than the city I work in, Oakland, which has some 400,000 residents. In terms of economics, the city of Oakland has an income per capita of about $32K, give or take, while the income per capita for the whole nation of Belize is just over $7,000.

So, it is easy to guess some of the things Belize does not have. There are some things Belize has in spades, however. Belize has in Mayan ruins what it lacks in Walmarts. The one big, big thing Belize has is a barrier reef. In fact, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. It is massive. It is a treasure. It is probably the lifeblood of the Belizian economy, accounting for about 12% of GDP.

If you were to make of list of activities which could really mess up a barrier reef system, you might put offshore oil drilling high on that list. Cynics would be unsurprised to hear the government of Belize has moved in that direction,  giving the green light to start oil exploration off the coast of Belize.

I mean… why would you do that? That’s not a real question. We all know why. It is money and greed and the power someone(s) might be able to accumulate in a country with a population smaller than the city of Oakland.

Belize… I hope you don’t do it. I hope you build on your assets and don’t lose them under a slick of oily greed and shortsightedness.

Belize… I need you to be Belize.

 


15
Jan 17

Let’s look at Florida

I like Florida… but Florida is in trouble. Captains for Clean Water is trying to help.


21
Jan 16

Blackadore Disaster

Raise a hand if you’ve been to Belize.

A not-small Jack.

A not-small Jack.

Wonderful place. I love it there and really hope to hold my wife to her PROMISE that we could return for our 5th anniversary (we honeymooned there), if not sooner.

If you’ve fished there, you know one of the reasons why it is special… the diversity and quality of the fishing. The Belizians have gone further than most in putting in place protections for their game fish, which is to be applauded.

So, leave it up to some Hollywood nitwit to ruin it (or at least some of it).

Blackadore Caye is a located within view of Savannah Caye, one of the prime spots to go hunting for tarpon. It was at Savannah that I hooked (and lost) my first tarpon. It was where I landed my largest jack (maybe 20 pounds?). It is not a great place for a resort, but that is what Leonardo DiCaprio is doing.

This is the disaster of a resort.

This is supposed to be eco-everything. No fossil fuel use. Composted waste. All solar/wind. They make it sound like a godsend.

I can’t imagine it will be anything short of a disaster. You just can’t build something like that in a place like that and have it be zero impact. The thing that will be impacted first will likely be the fishing at Savannah Caye. More boat traffic isn’t going to do anyone any favors. It also seems the resort will make the island off-limits to the locals because the clientele for a place like this get uncomfortable when there are un-uniformed/non-drink-serving brown people around.

This map would seem to suggest that the Belizian people know what they want to do with Blackadore Caye:

Seems like the people of Belize want Blackadore to not become a resort, but seems like Belize isn’t going to get what they want from Leo.

Funny thing. Leo accepted a Golden Globe recently and dedicated his award to native people.

That’s some grade A hypocrisy right there. Leo should listen to Leo on this one.

There is a Facebook page for Defend Blackadore Caye. Join it. I just did.

Blackadore Caye, as a resort, is a lessening of everything Belize really is. It doesn’t need improving on, not like this, not by Leonardo.

 


15
Jan 16

The Bimini Ferry, Not Coming to a Port Near You

Resorts World Bimini wanted to bring rapid ferry service to Bimini to bring allllll sorts of flashy, cash-dripping Americans over to their resort.

Locals said “It isn’t going to work.”

Environmentalists said “It isn’t going to work.”

The Bahamian Administration said “I can’t hear you over the sound of all this money.”

Guess what? Resorts World Bimini got their ferry and their ferry terminal (at some high environmental costs).

And guess what happened next! Yup… the ferry has failed and the service has stopped.

The Bahamian people appear to be on the hook for this bit of douchbaggery.


05
Aug 15

Protect Bay Bones!

From BTT. If you fish Florida, please take the survey!

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED: Project Bay Bones Survey

Do you fish for bonefish in south Florida? If you do, then we need your help. Bonefish and Tarpon Trust has partnered with researchers at Florida International University to create PROJECT BAY BONES to investigate changes in South Florida waters and how these changes may affect the quality of bonefishing. We need your help to fill in critical knowledge gaps on how bonefishing has changed in south Florida over the years. In the absence of scientific data on the health of bonefish populations, angler knowledge is an invaluable source of information. Thus, public participation is vital to the conservation of bonefish and to ensuring high quality fishing in the future!

You can help us by filling in a 10-15 minute survey and telling us about your fishing experiences. This survey is different than previous surveys on the bonefish fishery because it is tied into a larger study that is examining environmental changes in South Florida over time. Bringing all of these data sets together should help us better understand bonefish.

Click here to take the survey

If the link above does not work, please copy and paste the following URL into your browser: https://fiu.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_1GplxUPVHqt5xtz

We are looking for bonefish anglers of all levels and years of experience, including fishing guides. Your participation in this study is greatly appreciated and we thank you in advance!

For further information or if you have any questions, please contact fishscience@fiu.edu