Apex Predators Program
28 Tarzwell Drive
Narragansett RI 02882-1152 USA
NEFSC Apex Predators Program
INSTRUCTIONS FOR TAGGING SHARKS
Click here to print a copy of the Cooperative Shark Tagging Program Booklet
SHARKS TO BE TAGGEDAll identifiable shark species except smooth dogfish (Mustelus canis) and spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) can be tagged. Tagging area is the North Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean & Mediterranean Seas.
M TAGPlease do not open the capsule prior to tagging. Capsules contain the following message in English, Spanish, French, Norwegian, and Japanese:
TAGGING EQUIPMENT & METHODS
Commercial tag poles are available for purchase, or you may construct your own.
Tagging needles should be firmly mounted in 1" to 1¼" diameter hardwood doweling 6' to 8' long, and should protrude from the pole 2½".
The dart head fits loosely into the slotted point in the needle, and the entire tag is held in place by rubber bands 2" to 3" up on the pole. The dart head should be curved so that the two rear points will face downwards into the muscle when the tag is inserted.
Tags should be driven into the back near the first dorsal fin. This area lies to the side of the backbone and above the body cavity. The ideal location on large sharks is in the muscle at the very base of the first dorsal fin.
It is most important that the capsule assumes a TRAILING POSITION on the shark. Insert the dart at an angle toward the head end of the fish. The skin of a shark is well known for its toughness, but by holding the pole 2' to 3' above the shark and making a strong, quick thrust, the dart should penetrate even large fish.
When the tag is correctly inserted, the dart head will come to rest approximately 1" to 1½" beneath the shark's skin. If you fish from shore or catch many small sharks, the tagging needle can be mounted in a short handled dowel (8"). In tagging small sharks, care must be taken to avoid injury to the backbone. To control the depth of penetration of the dart head, an incision can be made with the point of a knife and the dart head then carefully forced into the muscle. We do not recommend tagging sharks less than 3' in length with dart tags.
Shark fishing is so diversified an activity with respect to the species, sizes, fishing areas and methods, that no set of tagging instructions can be rigidly applied to all sharks under all conditions. We recognize that the experienced fisherman is often in the best position to judge the safest and most effective means for tagging sharks. Nevertheless, some fundamental procedures are essential to the survival of tagged sharks and for obtaining accurate information.
- Plan Tagging Activities In Advance - Tagging a shark is often a team effort that requires practice. Know who is going to do what in the process of catching, tagging and releasing the shark, and who will concentrate on obtaining biological information.
- Safety Is The Vital Element In Planning - The basic points to keep in mind are: 1) leave the shark in the water whenever possible, 2) try to avoid handling any part of the shark, and 3) use a dehooker to retrieve the hook or cut the leader if needed (you can find shark survival tips here). Even under the best conditions, every new activity at sea adds some hazard. The most dangerous one in shark fishing can be an uninformed guest who is trying to help.
IMPORTANT: Small sharks can also inflict serious injuries. Never attempt to handle even a small shark by yourself.
- Look For Tags Already In Place - Measure or estimate the fork length of the fish, record the tag number and all the recapture details including species, sex, date, latitude and longitude, method of capture, etc. Tags have been lost in the mail so keep a copy of the recapture information. If keeping the shark, remove a piece of the backbone over the gill area and freeze it for our age studies (Backbone removal instructions).
- Tag Only Sharks That You Can Identify - Some species are difficult to tell apart, but it is important that your records are as accurate as you can make them. We will do whatever we can to assist you. If you are not sure if the shark was, for example, a blacktip or spinner, then note this on the card and send us a photo/video if possible (Know what you are tagging!).
- Take Time To Insert Tags Properly - The major reason for poor placement of tags is over-anxiousness. Once a shark is restrained on a short leader, it tends to twist and thrash making tagging difficult. Wait until the shark settles down before trying to tag it.
- Avoid "Snap Judgments" In Estimating Sizes - The demand for physical action in the final moments when a shark is being tagged can distract one's attention from pertinent details. Several people may assist in a release only to learn later that no one truly focused on the size or sex of the shark. Discuss size estimates and determine its sex before the shark is released.
Click here for a handy one page chart to help estimate the weight of your shark.
- Record Tagging Information Promptly And Completely - Please fill in the tag card immediately after tagging the fish and mail cards in promptly. Keep a copy for your records in case the cards are lost in the mail.
- Do Not Transfer Your Tags - Tags are assigned to individuals who we can contact should we need follow-up information. We will gladly send tags to fishermen who request them, but the indiscriminate transfer of tags can only lead to confusion. Please report the loss or damage of any of your tags.