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University researchers observe surprising bonefish spawning behavior in the Bahamas
Date:12/11/2013

MELBOURNE, FLA.Bonefish, also called gray ghosts, are among the most elusive and highly prized fishes sought by recreational anglers in the Florida Keys, Bahamas and similar tropical habitats around the world. Bonefish support a fishery worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually, but this fishery is threatened in many areas by habitat loss and degradation, and by overfishing. Scientists are scrambling to identify and protect critical habitats and identify other ways to conserve this vital fishery.

A recent study of bonefish spawning behavior in the Bahamas brings to light new information that should aid bonefish conservation efforts. In meetings in the Bahamas Dec. 9, Aaron Adams, director of operations for Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT) and research associate professor at Florida Institute of Technology, shared the results with the Bahamas Ministry of the Environment and conservation collaborators Bahamas National Trust and The Nature Conservancy. He and other marine scientists sponsored by BTT, the non-profit conservation group located at Florida Institute of Technology, recently tracked a school of more than 10,000 bonefish as they went through final stages of spawning in the Bahamas.

The scientists found that, starting in mid-afternoon, the school swirled like a tornado in water 30 feet deep (http://youtube/5KMGm39zOqI). These fish, which normally live on the bottom, started rushing to the surface to gulp air. Bumping against each other in a pre-spawning behavior, the fish tried to avoid the sharks, barracuda and Cubera snappers stalking the school. As night fell, fish in the school quickened their pace and headed for the drop-off at the edge of the reef, where water depths exceed 1,000 feet.

Using special tags they had inserted into the bonefish on a previous day, the team tracked the school as it quickly descended past 160 feet and drifted about a quarter mile from
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Contact: Karen Rhine
krhine@fit.edu
321-674-8964
Florida Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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