The November 10 field trip that included the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce director was designed to look at the feeding and migration habits of our area’s tarpon population. Dr. Aaron Adams, scientist for Mote Marine Laboratory and research collaborator for Bonefish Tarpon Trust, was also along to supervise. The Juvenile Tarpon Project is led by Jo Ellen King, a graduate student at the University of Florida, and the project is made possible with the cooperation of the Lemon Bay Conservancy.
More than 155 juvenile tarpon were netted, and 25 were large enough to be tagged. To date, a total of 42 baby tarpon have been tagged and 223 have been fin-clipped for genetic testing.
“Sometimes you create opportunity and sometimes opportunity finds you,” Lew said. “In my case, this year has been a whirlwind of opportunity for me to experience and learn about our spectacular natural resources and participate in the science of the magnificent Megalops atlanticus, the Atlantic tarpon. It has been an incredible experience.”
The project involves wading into mucky, alligator-infested water, so it isn't for the faint of heart.
“It’s not easy work in the field to be sure, something I learned early on in my other life in archaeology, and not everyone is willing to get their hands dirty, or wet, or callused,” said Hastings. “But I encourage everyone to experience it, even if only once. The satisfaction of taking part in a study that is the only one of it’s kind in the world, and the data-set that will be compiled and analyzed at the end that will help us come up with smarter ways to manage our marine environment for a sustainable future, make it all worthwhile.”
Another day of tagging is planned for Saturday, Dec. 8, and the park will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. There are also park walks and an open-house event scheduled during the months of December, January, February and March. Contact Lemon Bay Conservancy at (941) 830-8922 for dates and times. Hastings plans to stay involved in the tarpon study, so you might see him hard at work.
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