Tropic Star Lodge DRP Update

Major Dolphin Recovery in the Eastern Pacific Ocean –

By Dr. Wessley Merten – September 2019

For a species as important as dolphin to so many fishing sectors in the Atlantic Ocean, one would think that we would know the status of the health of the population in the region.  Unfortunately, neither the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) nor any of the international fisheries management agencies in the Atlantic (e.g., International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) or Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM)) have made it a priority to conduct a modern stock assessment on the species.  The only modern stock assessment on dolphin was conducted by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) which we reported about in our May 2018 newsletter.  Click here to read that brief article.  One of the key outcomes of that effort was the need to decribe the movements of the species throughout the eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) to further understand the connectivity of the species among the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) and high seas areas that make up the EPO.  The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation recogizes this need and, as a result, provided the DRP with funding in 2018 and 2019 to expand the program to the EPO with tagging operations focused at the Tropic Star Lodge (TSL).  This research is one component of GHOF’s

Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape (ETPS) project which is a partnership between GHOF, the Guy Harvey Research Institute, Nova Southeastern University and TSL.  The objective of the ETPS project is to tag and collect migratory data from 3 species of billfish (sailfish, blue and black marlin) in the Pacific Ocean in order to shed light on the differences between the habitat use of the 3 species.  In addition, the project aims to collect migratory data on sharks, rooster fish, and dolphinfish.  In terms of dolphinfish and our involvement in the ETPS project, through the end of August 2019, a total of 381 dolphin have been tagged and released, of which 9 have been recovered.  Our most recent recovery reported by Pablo Luis Suarez and Gastelum Zuñiga Mario Francisco (Figure 1 – above) shows that large individuals of the purported resident coastal sub-stock in Panama can mix with the oceanic sub-stock in the high seas.  This is the first quantified evidence of these dynamics.  Mr. Suarez and Mr. Francisco caught the fish aboard a Venezuelan flagged purse seiner M/N Taurus-1 while fishing in the high seas of the EPO.  M/N Taurus-1 was targeting tuna when the dolphin was caught.  In addition to acknowledging Mr. Suarez and Mr. Francisco for reporting the recovery, we would like to thank IATTC and Marlon Roman in particular for sending us the tag that was recovered on the fish.  We would also like to congratulate Captain Mosquera of Miss Skandia of the Tropic Star Lodge for tagging and releasing this bull in January 2019.  For more information on other movements recorded to date (Figure – article below) offshore TSL, in the Gulf of Panama, or along the continental shelf break from northwestern Panama to Costa Rica, click here to read a brief but detailed article.  To help the DRP send kits to anglers from southern California to Manta, Ecuador, and to expand throughout the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean consider making a donation today.  Click here to donate to DRP expansion in the Pacific.

Tropic Star Lodge Dolphinfish Research Program Update –

By Dr. Wessley Merten – February 2019

Expansion to the Tropic Star Lodge –

By Dr. Wessley Merten – December 2018

Built in 1963, the Tropic Star Lodge has a rich history and exemplary reputation as one of the best fishing destinations in the world.   The Tropic Star Lodge has provided the ultimate experience for Dolphinfish Research Program and the Tropic Star Lodge, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, Guy Harvey Research Institute, NOVA Southeastern University offshore and inshore fishermen for more than 50 years and is very active in fisheries conservation work.  The Tropic Star Lodge was not only the first fishing resort in Panama to begin releasing all roosterfish and cubera snapper but it also adopted the use of circle hooks in the early 90s to improve the survival rates of released fish. Tropic Star Lodge, along with many leaders in Panama, have been responsible for establishing a 20-mile non-commercial fishing zone around Piñas Bay and also a decree that protects all billfish and roosterfish from commercial harvest.    Click here to read a document prepared by Panama’s Authority in Aquatic Resources.  Many of the topics discussed and progress explained in that document are the result of years of work with many different entities including the Tropic Star Lodge.

Dorado satellite tracking begins off southwest Panama Dolphinfish Research Program
Jessica Harvey, of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, and Ryan Logan, Ph.D. student at the Guy Harvey Research Institute at NOVA Southeastern University, pass a 39.5″ bull fitted with a pop-up satellite archival tag (PSAT) nestled in a sling to a diver in the water during the 2018 Tropic Star Billfish Tournament. The bull shot out of the sling full of life and signified the beginning of satellite tracking work for dorado off the southwest coast of Panama with operations based out of the Tropic Star Lodge. The bull was caught by Louisa Gibson of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. Photo: Wess Merten

The tremendous conservation efforts outlined in the document above are fantastic achievements for Panama and we are pleased to announce that through the support of the Tropic Star LodgeGuy Harvey Research Institute at NOVA Southeastern University, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, and captains, mates, local and visiting fishermen in Panama, the Dolphinfish Research Program successfully expanded to southwest Panama during the 2018 Tropic Star Billfish Tournament.  We outfitted the lodge’s fleet of Bertrams, along with 4 private boats, with more than 1100 conventional tags and we began our satellite tracking and fishing fleet work.   We are extremely excited to get the Tropic Star Lodge involved in the Dolphinfish Research Program to help advance ocean conservation and our knowledge of the life history, movements, population dynamics of dolphinfish in Panama.