Main content area

A multi-methods approach supports the effective management and conservation of coastal marine recreational flats fisheries

Adams, Aaron J., Rehage, Jennifer S., Cooke, Steven J.
Environmental biology of fishes 2019 v.102 no.2 pp. 105-115
Albula vulpes, Megalopidae, ecotourism, environmental knowledge, fish, fisheries, geographical distribution, habitat conservation, habitats, information sources, subtropics, Atlantic Ocean, Bahamas, Caribbean Sea, Florida, Gulf of Mexico
The recreational, catch and release fishery for fishes that inhabit shallow-water, coastal marine habitats in tropical and sub-tropical regions (called the flats fishery) is economically valuable and increasingly perceived as a sustainable ecotourism pursuit. However, knowledge of many aspects of target species (such as bonefish, tarpon and permit) ecology is incomplete, and fishery- and non-fishery-related threats to the fish and habitats are numerous and often poorly understood. The International Bonefish and Tarpon Symposium is convened every three years to share new knowledge and to chart directions for future research, with a focus on research that informs conservation and management. Most of the articles in this Special Issue focus on the flats fishery in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and western North Atlantic ocean, but the findings presented here provide guidance for similar work in other regions. Conservation and management of flats fisheries present a challenge because the fisheries are typically data poor; they occur in locations that lack resources and there are scant data on the target species and their habitats. Since earlier symposia, much has been accomplished to fill knowledge gaps and contribute actionable knowledge to conservation. Studies are being replicated across a wider geographic range, and connectivity is being studied at local and regional scales. Citizen science and local ecological knowledge have contributed to a better understanding of historical trends and ongoing processes. In some instances, data have been applied to proactive habitat protections, as in the Bahamas, and to habitat restoration, as in Florida. In other instances, though much data have been gathered, additional information is needed before a comprehensive conservation strategy is possible, as in the Florida Keys. As the articles contained in this Special Issue demonstrate, a mixed-methods approach that uses complementary sources of information to construct a broad understanding of the flats fishery is necessary to guide research and inform conservation and management.