Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 102, Issue 2, pp 329–348 | Cite as

Bonefish in South Florida: status, threats and research needs

  • Jacob W. BrownscombeEmail author
  • Andy J. Danylchuk
  • Aaron J. Adams
  • Brooke Black
  • Ross Boucek
  • Michael Power
  • Jennifer S. Rehage
  • Rolando O. Santos
  • Russ W. Fisher
  • Bill Horn
  • Christopher R. Haak
  • Sean Morton
  • John Hunt
  • Robert Ahrens
  • Michael S. Allen
  • Jonathan Shenker
  • Steven J. Cooke


Bonefish (Albula vulpes) support a world-renowned fishery in South Florida, USA. However, fishing guides and anglers have been reporting significant declines in bonefish angling quality over that past three decades. In the absence of any long-term bonefish stock and ecosystem assessments, the cause of this decline in the fishery is unclear. Here we summarize our current knowledge of bonefish ecology in Florida and discuss potential causes of fishery decline. Reductions and alterations in freshwater flows from the Everglades have caused major changes in bonefish habitat, including acute (anoxic conditions) and chronic (changes in benthic flora and fauna) effects in Florida Bay and Biscayne Bay. Various pollutants from agricultural and urban runoff may also be impacting bonefish population(s) directly and/or indirectly throughout their range. Efforts to locate juvenile A. vulpes in Florida have been largely unsuccessful to date, suggesting abundances may be low, and/or juveniles have unknown habitat requirements in Florida. Further, bonefish larvae may be sourced from adult individuals outside of Florida in areas such as Cuba or Mexico, in which case bonefish conservation in other regions is highly relevant to the Florida population. Extreme weather events may have also contributed to the decline; an extreme cold spell in 2010 caused significant bonefish mortality and coincided with documented declines in the fishery. The fishery may also be impacting the population. We outline research needs and potential approaches to better understand the causes of the bonefish decline in Florida and restore populations of this ecologically and socioeconomically important species.


Fisheries management Catch-and-release Recreational angling Habitat loss Exploitation Pollution 



Brownscombe is supported by Bonefish & Tarpon Trust and Carleton University. Cooke is a BTT Fellow and is further supported by NSERC and the Canada Research Chairs Program. Adams and Boucek are supported by Bonefish & Tarpon Trust.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Jacob W. Brownscombe
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andy J. Danylchuk
    • 2
  • Aaron J. Adams
    • 3
    • 4
  • Brooke Black
    • 3
  • Ross Boucek
    • 3
  • Michael Power
    • 5
  • Jennifer S. Rehage
    • 6
    • 7
  • Rolando O. Santos
    • 6
    • 7
  • Russ W. Fisher
    • 3
  • Bill Horn
    • 3
  • Christopher R. Haak
    • 2
  • Sean Morton
    • 8
  • John Hunt
    • 9
  • Robert Ahrens
    • 10
  • Michael S. Allen
    • 11
  • Jonathan Shenker
    • 12
  • Steven J. Cooke
    • 1
  1. 1.Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology Laboratory, Department of BiologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Department of Environmental ConservationUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA
  3. 3.Bonefish and Tarpon TrustCoral GablesUSA
  4. 4.Florida Atlantic University Harbor Branch Oceanographic InstituteFort PierceUSA
  5. 5.Department of BiologyUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada
  6. 6.Earth & Environment DepartmentFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  7. 7.Southeast Environmental Research CenterFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  8. 8.Florida Keys National Marine SanctuaryKey WestUSA
  9. 9.Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation CommissionMarathonUSA
  10. 10.Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences ProgramUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  11. 11.Department of Fisheries and Aquatic SciencesUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  12. 12.Department of Ocean Engineering and Marine SciencesFlorida Institute of TechnologyMelbourneUSA

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