Bonefish (Albula vulpes) throughout the Caribbean share genetic composition to a great extent, indicating that bonefish in all of the locations that were sampled are part of a single genetic population. However, it appears that the distance between locations influences the degree of relatedness. For example, although bonefish in the eastern Caribbean share genetic composition with bonefish in the western Caribbean and Florida, fish in these locations are unlikely to be directly related. In other words, there are probably many generations between eastern and western Caribbean bonefish. The larvae of a bonefish that spawns in Vieques may end up in Honduras. When those larvae become adult bonefish and spawn, some of their larvae end up in Mexico. And when those fish spawn, some of their larvae may end up in the Florida Keys.
At smaller geographic scales, the connections are more direct.
- There appears to be reasonably high connectivity between Cuba and the Bahamas;
- There appears to be reasonable high connectivity between Belize/Mexico and Cuba;
- There appears to be high connectivity between Belize/Mexico and Florida;
- There appears to be limited direct connectivity between Cuba and Florida.
But when Belize, Mexico, Cuba, and Florida samples are combined, they are deemed as highly connected. There is also a high level of connectivity among islands in the Bahamas.
The results of the Bonefish Genetics Study underscore the need for conservation and improved fishery management at local and regional scales that transcend international boundaries. BTT’s next steps will be to examine more closely the pathways of connection, which will bring into focus the areas that BTT and its partners need to prioritize for conservation.