Most fly fishermen think of bonefish, permit and tarpon fisheries as primarily being catch-and-release. This leads to the assumption of low mortality and sustainable fisheries. However, there are threats to these fisheries that are often not considered, or are just unknown.
Conservation strategies are needed to counteract these threats and ensure sustainability of flats fisheries. However, information is needed to create efficacious conservation strategies.
Belize River Lodge is working with the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust (BTT) to create a research tournament to collect information to guide conservation strategies with a tournament called the Belize Tagging Challenge, and the catch does not count toward the tournament unless the fish is measured and tagged.
Tagging is a tool commonly used to gather salient information on fish populations, such as movements, growth, mortality and population size, and to reveal the structure of the population.
When a tagged fish is recaptured, the original angler who tagged the fish is educated with the growth and movements of the fish and this opens the door to some very interesting information; indeed many Florida Keys guides who tagged bonefish learned that they frequently caught exactly the same fish two or three times.
The target species of the tournament in Belize are bonefish, permit and tarpon, and there are prize categories for the most and biggest for each species. The tournament is also led by a Bonefish and Tarpon Trust scientist. A presentation on BTT research results is given at the beginning of the event and the scientist also provides instruction on proper measuring, tagging and release procedures; scientists even fish alongside the tournament participants.