Habitat Use and Movement of Tarpon Along the Texas Coast

Principal Investigator

Dr. Matt Streich and Dr. Greg Stunz of HRI's Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation are working with researchers from Texas A&M University, Louisiana State University, and University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley to better understand tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) seasonal movements and population connectivity in the western Gulf of Mexico. This collaborative effort, known as the Texas Tarpon Tagging Initiative, will track migration patterns of tarpon along the Texas coast using acoustic telemetry. Because factors responsible for the decline of tarpon in coastal waters off Texas are uncertain, an improved understanding of the population characteristics of this species is needed to evaluate the viability of rebuilding plans for the Texas population.

To help define spatial and temporal movement of adult tarpon, networks of acoustic receivers are being deployed along the Texas coast and western Louisiana. Acoustic (VR2W) receivers will be positioned to create several acoustic gates or detection areas. Tarpon will be implanted with V16 acoustic tags that can be programmed to have a battery life of 6‐10 years, allowing the team to investigate interannual variation in movement and possibly differentiate migration pathways for residents and migrants. Tags will also be registered with the Integrated Tracking of Aquatic Animals in the Gulf of Mexico (iTAG) network, allowing fish that swim outside of the proposed area to be detected by other receivers placed throughout the Gulf. Data garnered will provide critical information about long‐term movement patterns of tarpon along the Texas coast and determine whether a resident population exists.

Under the supervision of Dr. Stunz, the Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation (CSSC) will deploy, monitor, and maintain an array of six receivers located off Port Aransas, Texas and extending approximately 20 kilometers offshore for the entire two‐year duration of the project. Receivers will be maintained and downloaded every six months (March and September) or as needed to ensure optimal performance before the spring and fall tarpon migrations. CSSC staff will also be responsible for assisting with tagging efforts conducted off Port Aransas or other locations as needed and be directly involved with the analysis and interpretation of tagging data.

 

This project runs July 2019 through March 2022.