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.