New Info On Texas Tarpon

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Recently published research from scientists at Texas A&M, partly funded by Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, provides information important for the management of juvenile tarpon habitats in Texas, and builds on our understanding of adult tarpon migrations.

Juvenile Tarpon in Texas

The study analyzed decades of data from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department sampling program, and found that abundance of juvenile tarpon in sampling has increased over the past four decades, especially over the most recent decade, which is great news.

Juveniles were most abundant in southern Texas estuaries, likely due to low water temperatures in winter in the northern estuaries. But as winter temperatures continue to rise due to climate change, we should expect more juvenile tarpon to survive winter in the northern estuaries.

An important conclusion of the study was that salinity was an important factor in when and where juvenile tarpon were captured. This information will be especially important for conservation strategies since salinity is strongly influenced by freshwater flows from land. Thus, freshwater flow management, in addition to habitat protection, should be a focal point of management measures.

Adult Tarpon Migrations

In October 2023, we reported some of the results of the Tarpon Acoustic Tagging Project, which revealed that adult tarpon migrations to and from Florida split the population into two sub-groups. Mixing in the Florida Keys during spawning season, one subgroup of tarpon migrates along the eastern US coast; the other subgroup migrates along the Gulf of Mexico coast as far as the Mississippi Delta.

The new research from Texas completes the adult migration picture. Also using acoustic tracking, the researchers tracked 16 tarpon that were tagged along the Texas coast, and two that were tagged east of the Mississippi River Delta. None of the tarpon tagged crossed the Mississippi Delta. In the fall, Texas-tagged tarpon migrated southward along the western Gulf of Mexico toward Mexico. The tarpon tagged east of the Mississippi Delta migrated south and were detected in Florida.

Combining the results of these two studies, we now know that our regional adult population is actually made up of three subgroups – one that migrates along the US east coast, one that migrates along the eastern coast of the Gulf of Mexico, and one that migrates along the western coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

To read more from the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust click here.



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