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Focus on healthy bonefish population imperative

In this country, we take a lot for granted. We have been so blessed by our maker that for generations, Bahamians have operated with the mindset that everything will stay the same.

Over the last 10 years or so, our sports fishing industry has suffered. To a great degree, the encroachment in our territorial waters by foreigners has been the cause to a large degree. However, we have not been doing enough, I think scientifically and generally with studies, to come up with the formula for not just stability of the sports fishing industry, but growth of the product.

The study done by Dr. Karen Murchie of The College of The Bahamas (COB) and biologist Justin Lewis and others is a case in point.

Dr. Murchie has informed that a pilot study on bonefish was launched in October 2013, in Grand Bahama and completed in June of 2014.

There are bonefishing lodges throughout the country. Many Bahamians and foreign residents subsist off their bonefishing businesses. So, Dr. Murchie and her ilk are to be applauded for finding out pertinent information about our great tourist attraction, called the bonefish and its habitat.

Dr. Murchie reports: “In June 2014, the (bonefish) pilot study was completed and the findings have been astonishing. Bonefish implanted with transmitters logged more than 26 detections on listening stations that were scattered around the island. What we learned is that some bonefish use the Grand Lucayan Waterway to get from the north side to the south side to spawn. A number of other bonefish tagged on the north side of Grand Bahama made different long distance migrations (50 miles) around either the east end or west end of the island. These results demonstrate that habitats all along the coast of Grand Bahama both north and south sides serve as important movement corridors for adult bonefish during their spawning season. To keep the multi-million dollar bonefish industry healthy for years to come, it is imperative to protect these movement corridors. Because it will also be important to protect spawning bonefish, the next step is to expand the study this fall to determine the location of spawning sites.”

This is an amazing bit of information. I think immediately of Andros with its many creeks and larger tributaries, all loaded with bonefish. A pilot study ought to be done in Andros, considered to be a larger section of the bonefishing industry.

The bonefish pilot study in Grand Bahama certainly provides food for thought. The Department of Marine Resources will get this information and it will be interesting to see what the follow-up is.

Hopefully a proactive approach will be taken.

(To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at [email protected])

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