Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 98, Issue 11, pp 2187–2202 | Cite as

Using local fishers’ knowledge to characterize historical trends in the Florida Bay bonefish population and fishery

  • Peter E. FrezzaEmail author
  • Shawn E. Clem


Florida Keys’ bonefish (Albula vulpes) are an important component of the recreational fishery and their population can serve as an indicator of ecosystem status. Anecdotal reports from long-time fishers of Florida Bay suggest a dramatic reduction in bonefish abundance in recent years. In absence of a reliable long-term dataset, experienced fishers can provide critical information on historical changes in this fishery. To characterize and quantify historical trends and the contemporary status of the Florida Bay bonefish population and fishery, 64 of the fishery’s most reputable and experienced fishers were surveyed using a questionnaire. All but one respondent reported the bonefish population in Florida Bay had declined over the course of their fishing career. Respondents indicated a 78 % decline in bonefish abundance in Florida Bay with no correlation between perceived decline and fisher experience. A significant period of bonefish decline was noted 2001–2012 with 76 % of respondents indicating the largest decline in the population occurred 2007–2011. Fishing effort for bonefish decreased 37 % over the course of respondents’ careers, with 74 % of those respondents indicating this reduced effort was due to lack of fish. Forty-four percent of respondents suggested water quality issues as the primary reason for the observed decline. Two of the larger bonefish decline periods (mid 1990s and 2006–08) corresponded to periods of sustained algal blooms in Florida Bay. The most significant decline in bonefish abundance throughout the range of the Florida Keys was reported to have occurred in Florida Bay. Several possible factors leading to the perceived decline in the Florida Bay bonefish population are discussed, and the continued need to focus on this population throughout Everglades restoration efforts is emphasized.


Local fisheries knowledge Florida Bay Bonefish Fishers ecological knowledge Everglades restoration Shifting baselines 



We are grateful to and thank all of the fishers that participated in this survey and provided the valuable information that made this study possible. We are especially grateful to Charles Causey and Captains John Kipp, John Milchman, and Rick Ruoff who offered countless hours of thoughtful discussion and knowledge of Florida Bay bonefish and the fishery. Special thanks to Jerry Lorenz for assistance and support during this study and for constructive comments on this manuscript from him, Laura Ogden, and 2 anonymous reviewers.

Compliance with ethical standards

Participation in this survey was completely voluntary. Prior to completion of the survey, all interviewees were notified through an informed consent statement that their participation in the survey would remain confidential and that their name and associated answers would remain anonymous and would not appear on any documentation or paperwork. Participants were informed that their answers from the survey would be used in a scientific report, publication, or public presentation. Participant anonymity was upheld throughout analyses, manuscript preparation and within the final manuscript (including supplements).

Supplementary material

10641_2015_442_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (194 kb)
Online Resource 1 (PDF 194 kb)
10641_2015_442_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (113 kb)
Online Resource 2 (PDF 113 kb)
10641_2015_442_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (118 kb)
Online Resource 3 (PDF 117 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Audubon Florida, Everglades Science Center at TavernierTavernierUSA
  2. 2.Audubon Florida, Corkscrew Swamp SanctuaryNaplesUSA

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