On Thursday, Feb. 2 the Boca Grande Community Center Auditorium was packed, as fishing guides, anglers, and conservationists gathered to listen to plans for restoration of the 80-acre parcel in Cape Haze called Wildflower Preserve. The land was recently purchased by the Lemon Bay Conservancy.
With the help of local fishing guides (who are usually anglers and conservationists as well) and internal tagging, the tarpon population can be tracked for recovery.
The plans to rebuild and re-engineer Wildflower Preserve are impressive. From enlarging the culvert under 771 that connects the property to Charlotte Harbor, to reconnecting the small lakes on the property, the groups coming together to restore the Preserve have their work cut out for them. All of the work, which will begin with hiring a student from the University of Florida to do more in-depth studies of the local population, will have a final price tag of around $300,000.
The Charlotte Harbor tarpon fishery brought $110 million to the state of Florida in 2009, a year that was seen by many as the worst in recent history. The Florida sport fishing industry is estimated to be worth $8 billion each year, more than citrus, cattle, or sugar production.
On Friday, Feb. 3, the Gasparilla Inn & Resort Beach Club was host to the third annual Bonefish & Tarpon Trust fundraiser. The event was attended by a wide cross-section of conservationists, fishing guides, and concerned residents of Gasparilla Island.
On a large screen at the front of the room, a video on tarpon fishing and conservation played. The footage drew a crowd the whole night.
The highlight of the evening was special guest Chauncey Goss, son of former CIA Director Porter Goss and a long time advocate of protecting the Charlotte Harbor estuary. Goss, a former island resident, was on hand to answer questions and raise support.
Goss pledged $10,000 toward the restoration during at the presentation.
True Flies, a local saltwater clothing and accessories company, has donated to the cause as well.
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