Fisheries Conservation Foundation Science. Solutions. FCF. Mon, 07 Aug 2017 17:47:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Research in the News: Fishing for Nesting Bass Fri, 14 Jul 2017 16:46:55 +0000 Nesting Bass What does 22 years of research tell you about nesting bass? Our FCF Chair, Dr. David Philipp, was recently interviewed by Outdoor Canada about his long-term research program investigating the impacts of angling on nesting black bass. What are the consequences for a bass population when angling is allowed while the males are providing parental care? Click on the link below to read the discussion about what the research shows. FCF has been a contributor to some of this work, and we would like to thank Gord Pyzer at Outdoor Canada on his effort to get fisheries science research out to the angling community.

Fishing for nesting bass:

Presentation at “Mahseer 2017” in Kochi, India Thu, 25 May 2017 16:39:58 +0000 News mahseer thumbnail_sizedThe Mahseer radio-telemetry study was recently presented at the International Workshop on Mahseer Conservation, which took pace April 5 – 7 2017 in Kochi, India. The presentation was given by team member Karma Wangchuk of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests. Also representing our team was Tandin Wangde of WWF Bhutan.

Karma provided an update on the migration patterns and what we have learned so far in our Mahseer Conservation Project. The workshop brought together key stakeholders to look at the status of the various mahseer species in India and surrounding nations. This workshop represented the first successful attempt to unite stakeholders across different disciplines, sectors and international boundaries, with representatives from academia, forestry, fisheries, conservation charities and angling associations present.

News Karma at KochiThe conference was jointly hosted by Bournemouth University (BU), Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS) in Kochi, India and the Mahseer Trust. (UK). We look forward to working with the Kochi organizers in the future to work on strategies to protect wild mahseer populations and their habitats.

100th Fish Tagged in Bhutan: Mahseer Conservation Project Tue, 09 May 2017 17:48:57 +0000 News thumbnail picThe Mahseer Conservation Project, a joint effort with World Wildlife Fund Bhutan and Bhutan’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, is making great strides in understanding both Golden Mahseer and Chocolate Mahseer migration patterns, including where the fish overwinter, their spawning behavior, and where these fish travel during the monsoon season.

We have just completed our seventh field expedition, where we successfully tagged our 100th fish! During our time in Bhutan, we visited each of our stations, completed necessary repairs, downloaded data, and added four more receiver stations to the array.

We are thrilled to report that most of the tagged fish have been detected, and our tagged fish seem to be constantly on the move, with some fish showing repeatable patterns over relatively restricted areas while others have long-range movements, often swimming 50km in a 48-hour period.

You can read more about our study on the Mahseer Conservation Project page.

Investigating Bonefish Spawning Aggregations Thu, 26 Jan 2017 18:00:03 +0000 The Fisheries Conservation Foundation has partnered with several organizations in The Bahamas to identify bonefish spawning aggregation sites. We are currently focusing our efforts on the island of Eleuthera. Working out of the Cape Eleuthera Institute, Georgiana Burruss (a graduate student at Michigan State University) is leading the study to track bonefish populations across Eleuthera to identify these aggregation sites and critical spawning habitat for this economically important species.

Map of five regions dividing Eleuthera into bonefish tagging areas.

The team first identified a number of potential bonefish spawning migration corridors using an array of 62 VEMCO acoustic receivers to record the movements of 39 tagged bonefish as they migrated away from known foraging grounds and tidal creeks. Bio-telemetry data indicated potential spawning migration corridors in the Northeast, Southeast, and East regions of Eleuthera. In addition, the team was able to track the nighttime movements of spawning aggregations in the Southwest region of the island. Although, transmitter detections in the Northwest part of the island were limited, the fact that the timing was coordinated with spawning-related movements in other regions suggests that they were potentially spawning-related. Interestingly, bonefish tagged in each of the areas were not detected moving into another region, perhaps indicating these populations are unlikely to mix. Overall, five migration corridors have been identified, with additional data suggesting there are likely at least five bonefish spawning sites on Eleuthera, although more study is needed for confirmation.

Given the success of last year, the bonefish telemetry project officially kicked off its second year of data collection to answer the following questions:

  1. Where are bonefish forming spawning aggregations in the five regions of interest on Eleuthera?
  2. How do abiotic factors (season, moon phase, temperature, current, tide, etc.) influence bonefish spawning migrations in South Eleuthera?
  3. What is the energetic cost of spawning migrations?
  4. How do predators interact with the bonefish spawning aggregation?
VEMCO receivers are attached to cinder blocks with rebar posts. This receiver has a SYNC tag positioned above it, allowing for triangulation of position with other nearby receivers and allowing for the fine scale movement of bonefish to be assessed.

VEMCO receivers are attached to cinder blocks with rebar posts. This receiver has a SYNC tag positioned above it, allowing for triangulation of position with other nearby receivers and allowing for the fine scale movement of bonefish to be assessed.

Two VEMCO positioning arrays were deployed to assess the broad- and fine-scale spawning migration movements of bonefish in Eleuthera. Forty-two receivers in the broad-scale array were concentrated around zones of interest in each region (identified from last year’s study) to further the understanding of bonefish spawning migrations and staging areas. This increase in coverage, combined with manual tracking and visual observations, should provide further evidence and confirm our previously identified sites of interests as critical spawning areas. Transmitters will be implanted in 30 bonefish at strategic locations around Eleuthera ,allowing for the fine-scale movements of these fish to be collected. Additionally, these fish will add to the 39 bonefish tagged last year to provide unprecedented data on this important species. By simultaneously tracking bonefish from several areas of Eleuthera, we can better determine which environmental cues bonefish use to form spawning aggregations, such as moon phase and tides.

At the previously identified spawning aggregation site of interest in South Eleuthera, 31 receivers were placed in an overlapping fine-scale array to track the movements of the bonefish aggregation on an almost continuous basis. This array will allow the team to answer questions related to: how abiotic factors (current, moon phase, seasonality, tide) influence bonefish spawning, how predators interact with the aggregation, understanding the energy expenditure of bonefish when migrating to their spawning site, and potentially the physical act of spawning, which is yet to be described. Furthermore, the fine-scale array will fill critical knowledge gaps regarding the movements of tagged predatory species, such as great barracuda, Sphyraena barracuda, and blacktip shark, Carcharhinus limbatus.  In addition to the basic positional transmitters being deployed, the team will be deploying 20 acoustic transmitters fitted with accelerometer sensors to determine energy expenditure of bonefish during spawning, as well as 20 acoustic tags in predatory species to assess predator interactions with the bonefish spawning aggregation.  Collectively, findings from this study will be used to develop a management and conservation framework for bonefish and predatory species surrounding Eleuthera, The Bahamas.


This project is being conducted in partnership with Fisheries Conservation Foundation (FCF) with additional funding from the Hutchins Family Foundation. Georgiana Burruss is conducting this study as part of her MSc thesis at Michigan State University. This year, the team is supported by visiting researchers from FCF, Illinois Natural History SurveyFlorida Institute of Technology, and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation CommissionCocoloba ToursFishbone Tours, and the Rainbow Inn have provided support in the form of lodging and guiding.


Where Do Bonefish Go to Spawn? Tue, 06 Dec 2016 17:36:13 +0000 bonefish-photoBonefish do not spawn just anywhere. Certain locations provide the conditions for better survival of offspring than others. Our research efforts over the past two years have successfully documented when and where adult bonefish go to spawn around Grand Bahama Island (GBI).

Highlights from our analysis so far includes:

  • We detected only three pre-spawning aggregation sites, with many fish going there multiple times during the study (late October 2014 – early June 2015).
  • The longest migration was one of at least 189 miles round trip from Dover Sound on the north side of GBI all the way to the south side of the island via East End.
  • Several fish spawned at least five times during the study.
  • Two fish used more than one of the three pre-spawning aggregation sites.
  • None of our fish that were tagged in GBI were detected on any of the six receivers deployed in Abaco or the two receivers deployed well south of the east end of GBI, suggesting that the Bonefish in GBI remain there for spawning.

Spearheaded by Dr. Karen Murchie (Shedd Aquarium in Chicago), the results of our work have been published in a Special Issue on Bonefish, Tarpon and Permit in the scientific journal Environmental Biology of Fishes:

Defining adult bonefish (Albula vulpes) movement corridors around Grand Bahama in the Bahamian Archipelago,” by Karen J. Murchie, Aaron D. Shultz, Jeffrey A. Stein, Steven J. Cooke, Justin Lewis, Jason Franklin, Greg Vincent, Julie E. Claussen, David P. Philipp

See the full article here:

So, why is this important? The findings that there are only three pre-spawning aggregation sites (and hence three spawning locations) around the entire island of Grand Bahama has serious implications for bonefish conservation efforts: Bonefish do not spawn just anywhere. Certain locations provide the conditions for better survival of offspring than others. As a result, it is extremely important to guard the three aggregation sites (locations being kept confidential to protect the bonefish that spawn there) against both illegal fishing activities and commercial development that could alter the habitat. We are sharing the results of our study with the Bahamas National Trust and the Government of The Bahamas to work toward the long-term protection of bonefish populations.

See photos from our Grand Bahama study here.

Pics for Grand Bahama New Page 2