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Connecting the Dots with Acoustic Telemetry: A Promising Approach to Track Highly Migratory Atlantic Tarpon Across the Gulf of Mexico and Western Atlantic

Lucas Griffin, University of Massachusetts, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust

22 September 2017

Understanding migratory behaviors across a population is required to fill large gaps of knowledge in a species life history and to improve conservation management plans. However, monitoring marine migratory species over life stages and for extended periods of times have been difficult to achieve. We explore acoustic telemetry’s capability to overcome these challenges to monitor a highly migratory species, Atlantic tarpon (Megalops atlanticus), and its relevance to conservation applications. Given the economic importance of the Atlantic tarpon fishery across regions, e.g., Texas, Florida, South Carolina, a better understanding of tarpon movements and habitat use across life history stages is needed to develop and implement a strong tarpon management plan. Highlighted is the acoustic telemetry collaborative efforts across institutions to successfully monitor broad- and fine-scale movements for extended periods of times that are not often possible with satellite telemetry techniques. We demonstrate analyses on Atlantic tarpon data, such as network analysis and model-driven approaches, to investigate movement strategies and space use which may be pertinent to other studies involving highly migratory species. Although challenges do exist with current acoustic telemetry capabilities to monitor migratory species, we argue the benefits outweigh the limitations greatly and enables researchers to assess movements and space use beyond migratory species, such as cross-ecosystem comparisons and multi-species interactions. We suggest, as acoustic telemetry continues to be used to solve marine conservation issues, the collaboration across institutions using acoustic telemetry will strengthen and will become an increasingly valuable conservation tool for migratory species, such as the Atlantic tarpon.