Tarpon are a migratory fish. They migrate from extreme ranges as far north as Nova Scotia, Canada to as far south as Argentina. From our observations over the years, tarpons begin migrating north in March. The migration goes on through to August. They slow down in September and October and start migration back south around the first week in November.
While migrating through Belize waters, there are several locations they stop in Belize and join resident tarpons. Belize River, Ambergris Caye and Tarpon Caye lagoon are the main three areas. In our area, the main reasons they stop at Tarpon Caye are:
1. The island sitting in the middle of the Victoria channel, through which the tarpons naturally navigate.
2. Tarpon love to feed on glass minnows. Tarpon Caye has a deep dark lagoon that is home to a large quantity of these minnows, which feed on the algae that grows in the lagoon. Even the pelicans play a part in this feeding cycle. When they dive down to scoop up a mouth full of minnows, some are always injured in the process, and the tarpons find it easy to prey on the injured minnows. It is quite a beautiful natural process to watch.
On September 26th, 2009 the Government of Belize enacted into law, Statutory Instrument #144 to restrict the taking of Permit, Bonefish and Tarpon to catch and release only. This act requires all the above species to be returned alive to the water. It is now illegal for any restaurant, fisherman, market trader, etc. to be in possession of these species. With sports fishing bringing approximately $50 million BZ per annum into the Belizean economy, it was one of the best moves the Government of Belize could have done, to make sure this niche sector of the tourism industry remains sustainable.
Now, one of our major concerns at Tarpon Caye is the fact that in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico, tarpons are being purposely (and legally) speared in the hundreds! This may very well pose a detriment to the tarpon stock in Belize, due to the fact, as explained above, these fish are migratory, and since they are being killed in such large quantities in the Gulf of Mexico, it may eventually lead to the depletion of the tarpon stock in Belize. This may also pose a detriment to the future of the sports fishing industry in Belize, and those of us who make a living from this very sustainable niche tourism service.
We are asking all stakeholders to let’s join together to help lobby the US Fisheries Management Commissions to enact regulations that would protect, enhance and preserve these migratory fish in the Gulf of Mexico, from which so many people, from North to South America, make a living.
To sign the petition, please go to http://flylifemagazine.com/petition/. Click the orange button in the right hand margin of the article, to provide necessary protection for tarpon now.
We need to protect this specie for today and for the livelihood of future generations.
Charles Leslie, Sr.
Founder, Kingfisher Adventures Ltd.
Tarpon Caye, Belize