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How has the quality of bonefishing changed over the past 40 years? Using local ecological knowledge to quantitatively inform population declines in the South Florida flats fishery

Abstract

Local ecological knowledge (LEK) can be a valuable approach to fill in knowledge gaps in data-limited systems. Recent research has aimed to make LEK more quantitative-a key step to better integration of LEK into fisheries science and management. Here, we used LEK to a) quantify changes in bonefishing quality over time in South Florida as perceived by members of the flats fishery, and b) demonstrate the applicability of a life history calendar approach to LEK quantitative data collection. In an online survey, we asked anglers and guides to quantitatively evaluate changes in the quality of bonefishing, as a function of bonefish number and size, over the past 40 years in Biscayne Bay, Florida Bay, and the Florida Keys. Results showed a perceived 56% decrease in bonefish number, and a 45% decline in bonefish size since 1975. Respondents reported a decline in bonefish numbers that preceded the decline in size, with numbers starting to decline over 1985–1995, and size by 2005. In terms of the pattern of decline, bonefish number showed a heterogeneous pattern, with a slower rate of decline in 1985–2005 and an accelerated rate over 2005–2010, whereas the size decline was homogenous over 2000–2015. Overall, the study provides additional resolution, spatial coverage, and support to the pattern of bonefish population decline in the region, illustrating the utility of quantitative approaches to LEK data collection, and highlighting the value of integrating multiple knowledge sources to fully characterize ecological patterns.

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Acknowledgements

We are greteful to the many anglers and guides that completed this survey and to Bonefish and Tarpon Trust for fundig. The study was developed in collaboration with the FCE LTER program (NSF DEB-1237517). This is contribution # 111 of the Center for Coastal Oceans Research in the Institute of Water & Environment at Florida Internationational University.

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Correspondence to J. S. Rehage.

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Our survey was approved by the Human Subjects Board at Florida International University and was performed in accordance with the ethical standards as laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. For this type of study formal consent is not required.

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Rehage, J.S., Santos, R.O., Kroloff, E.K.N. et al. How has the quality of bonefishing changed over the past 40 years? Using local ecological knowledge to quantitatively inform population declines in the South Florida flats fishery. Environ Biol Fish 102, 285–298 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10641-018-0831-2

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Keywords

  • Recreational fisheries
  • Local ecological knowledge
  • Bonefish
  • South Florida
  • Time series
  • Life history calendar