Understanding large-scale migratory behaviours, local movement patterns and population connectivity are critical to determining the natural processes and anthropogenic stressors that influence population dynamics and for developing effective conservation plans. Atlantic tarpon occur over a broad geographic range in the Atlantic Ocean where they support valuable subsistence, commercial and recreational fisheries. From 2001 through 2018, we deployed 292 satellite telemetry tags on Atlantic tarpon in coastal waters off three continents to document: (a) seasonal migrations and regional population connectivity; (b) freshwater and estuarine habitat utilization; (c) spawning locations; and (d) shark predation across the south-eastern United States, Gulf of Mexico and northern Caribbean Sea. These results showed that some mature tarpon make long seasonal migrations over thousands of kilometres crossing state and national jurisdictional borders. Others showed more local movements and habitat use. The tag data also revealed potential spawning locations consistent with those inferred in other studies from observations of early life stage tarpon leptocephalus larvae. Our analyses indicated that shark predation mortality on released tarpon is higher than previously estimated, especially at ocean passes, river mouths and inlets to bays. To date, there has been no formal stock assessment of Atlantic tarpon, and regional fishery management plans do not exist. Our findings will provide critical input to these important efforts and assist the multinational community in the development of a stock-wide management information system to support informed decision-making for sustaining Atlantic tarpon fisheries.
- population connectivity
- shark predation
- spawning habitats
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law