Keys Inshore Fishery Worth $427 Million Annually

Study finds the Florida Keys flats fishery to be 16 percent of Florida’s saltwater recreational fishing economy.

Commissioned by the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, Dr. Tony Fedler conducted a study exploring the impact of the Florida Keys Flats Fishery on the local economy in an effort to raise awareness and build the case for the importance of science-based management of bonefish, tarpon, and permit. Dubbed "Rock Stars" by former Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissioner Rodney Barreto, the study concluded that the total annual economic impact of this fishery exceeds $427 million.

Keys guides were excited to hear that such a study was being conducted. “It’s fantastic to finally have valid economic information that will influence management decisions,” said Captain John O’Hearn of Key West. Captain Will Benson, another Keys guide, agrees: “This study makes a clear point that the economics of the Florida Keys are tied to a healthy marine habitat, and that the flats fishery is a major economic component of our community.”

Though the Florida Keys have historically received significant world-wide attention as the focus of flats fishing, very little previous effort has gone to scientific study of the fishery, its anglers, and its economic impact. This study was the first to collect data on the economic impact of the flats fishery, and thus its importance to the economy of the Florida Keys. When combined with the other sectors of the saltwater recreational fishery in the Florida Keys, the total annual economic impact exceeds $741 million. This accounts for 16 percent of Florida’s statewide saltwater recreational fishing economic impact, which underscores the importance of the Florida Keys flats fishery.

“The economic data from this and similar studies reinforces the importance of these recreational fisheries to the overall economic health of the state and even the region,” said Dr. Aaron Adams, BTT’s Director of Operations. “Since we know that healthy habitats are required to support healthy recreational fisheries, these studies help to justify BTT’s work on habitat and fisheries conservation. And since we know that the Florida Keys fish populations are connected to populations throughout the region, this work has even wider implications.”

Tom Davidson, BTT’s Chairman, added, “We want to make sure that the fishery we leave our children and grandchildren is even better than what we have now, and for the fishing guides and their families to continue to make a living in this historical fishery. We hope that this study resonates widely and increases interest in conserving and enhancing the Florida Keys flats fishery.”

Bonefish & Tarpon Trust’s mission is to conserve and enhance global bonefish, tarpon and permit fisheries and their environments through stewardship, research, education and advocacy.