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Keywords:

  • Albuliformes;
  • Elopiformes;
  • fisheries conservation;
  • habitat degradation;
  • habitat loss;
  • overfishing

Abstract

We assessed the taxonomic diversity, geographic distributions, life history, ecology and fisheries of tarpons, ladyfishes and bonefishes (members of the subdivision Elopomorpha), which share many life history and habitat use characteristics that make them vulnerable to environmental and anthropogenic stresses in coastal environments. This assessment of Red List status for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature reveals three species considered near threatened or vulnerable, three species of least concern, and 11 data-deficient species. Although the taxonomy of tarpons appears stable, it is less so for ladyfishes and bonefishes. In aggregate, these species are distributed circumtropically and foray into temperate zones. Although they spawn in marine habitats, larvae of many species disperse into estuarine habitats, which are declining in area or degrading in quality. Several species support high-value recreational fisheries, or culturally important small-scale commercial and artisanal fisheries. Nonetheless, no formal stock assessment exists for any species, so improved data collection, information sharing and assessment techniques should facilitate socio-economic development of individual fisheries. Catch-and-release recreational fisheries that promote conservation of tarpon and bonefishes in some regions are promising models to improve the conservation status of these fishes elsewhere, as well as the economic development of these fishing communities. Most tarpons, ladyfishes and bonefishes likely face significant challenges from anthropogenically mediated habitat loss and alteration, and several are vulnerable to both habitat degradation and overfishing. Broader protection and enhancements to fisheries habitat in all regions will benefit these as well as many other coastal fishery species.