Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bonefish on Aruba?

Over the past few weeks, I've begun to see bonefish in sizes and numbers that I haven't noticed on Aruba before. Part of the reason for this is opportunity. Thanks to a broken bone in my foot, which prevents me from enjoying a morning run, I've been swimming a lot. Back and forth, in long laps, over sand and sea grass. Sometimes I see barracuda, sometimes angelfish, sometimes even the broad shiny slab of a permit. (That was when I started keeping a fly rod in the truck.) The bonefish don't seem to mind a swimmer passing a few feet over their heads, and will occasionally tolerate a short pause for closer observation.

Aruba is the only Caribbean island without a marine park or preserve (see the Aruba Marine Park Foundation's Facebook page). Although offshore areas remain reasonably productive for billfish, wahoo, and tuna, the island's inshore waters suffer from a plague of unregulated netting. And yet, there are still fishable populations of many species. These little bones have been mudding in plain view of the hotels, in schools of 50 or more, and are ambitious enough to take the same flies that the larger ones do.

If we can convince commercial fishermen of the value of protecting nursery areas, and strengthen the conservation ethic in other residents, then someday, perhaps, Aruba's underappreciated bonefish will become as famous as its beaches . . .