Place-Based Recreational Fishery Conservation in Charlotte Harbor

Charlotte Harbor’s recreational saltwater fishing industry contributes 100s of millions of dollars annually to the local economy. Charlotte County comprises the northern half of the estuary and has known nursery habitat for two economically important sportfish, Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) and Common Snook (Centropomus undecimalis). Fish nursery habitats are natural hatcheries contributing to future generations of Tarpon and Common Snook, but the habitats are vulnerable to degradation from development at the upland margin. Place-based habitat conservation is a new management method being employed to ensure sustainability of the community’s valuable natural resources.


Juvenile Tarpon and Snook thrive in small, ephemerally connected, shallow ponds within a habitat mosaic of intertidal wetlands in Charlotte County, Florida. These habitats face risks from increased development along their upland margin and the species have no explicit special habitat protections in State or Federal law despite their importance to the regional economy as sportfish.

Dredge and fill of salt marsh habitat for neighborhoods has displaced much of the historical coastal pond habitat in southwest Florida. While a large portion of the remaining natural habitat is located on the Cape Haze peninsula of Charlotte Harbor within preserves, development abuts these preserves, creating stormwater pollution and limiting the potential for landward expansion of coastal wetlands with expected sea level rise.

Through a facilitated knowledge co-production process, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Coastal & Heartland National Estuary Partnership, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, and others have developed a plan to reduce uncertainties associated with implementing habitat restoration and policies that increase protections for these critical species. The plan includes both research and policy recommendations and defines the linkages necessary to solidify science-based decisions on how to proceed with realistic options to implement natural resource protections in Charlotte Harbor.

Research planning was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s RESTORE Science Program under grant award NA21NOS4510190 to The Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida and administered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation. The Research and Application Plan is a result of a “knowledge co-production” process involving a large, facilitated stakeholder group serving as a Habitat Conservation Subcommittee of the Coastal and Heartland National Estuary Partnership Technical Advisory Committee.

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The documents below contain information about research, planning and restoration activities that have been performed, or are being performed, in the area.

Research and Application Plan »

Knowledge Co-Production for Place-Based Recreational Fishery Conservation in Charlotte Harbor, Florida

Planning Workshop Agendas, Notes, and Materials »

Reports & Prior Studies

Blewett et al. 2023. Investigation of sport fish nurseries and forage fish abundance in association with restoration efforts in Charlotte County. Report prepared for Charlotte County RESTORE Act Direct Component Subaward

Bunting, Matthew. “Juvenile Tarpon Megalops Atlanticus Emigration from Ephemerally Connected Coastal Ponds in Southwest Florida.” Master’s Thesis, University of Florida, 2023. (Available Sept. 2024)


For more information, please contact the following people at their place of business:

Posters & Presentations

Chase et al. 2023. Shifting Baselines: Effects of seagrass loss on fish communities in Southwest Florida tidal creeks [Poster Presentation].

Saari et al. 2022. Integrating Sport Fish Nursery Habitat into Land-Use Management [Poster Presentation].

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