Yellowtail Flounder "Knowledge and Cash Lottery" Kicks Off 2003/07/07 Yellowtail Flounder "Knowledge and Cash Lottery" Kicks Off




Kicks Off





Teri Frady
(508) 495-2239


NMFS Northeast Region

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Organizers hope to tag 30,000 fish

Woods Hole, Mass. – A mixed crew of scientists and fishermen tagged nearly 900 yellowtail flounder off New Hampshire between June 23 and 27, in an area that opened to commercial flounder harvesters July 1. The trip is the first wave in a massive tagging project expected to mark 30,000 of the flatfish by the fall.

"A tagging project is the sum of returns," says study manager Steve Cadrin of NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service, "and we hope to see a good number of these back in the coming years."

Yellowtail flounder are managed as three stocks. While the Georges Bank and Cape Cod stock components are fairly well documented, the degree of mixing between stocks is not well known. There are few data on how, or how much, fish move between waters off southern New England and the Mid-Atlantic states. "We hope this work will tell us more about where fish go and how much they move," Cadrin said, "with enough returns, we may also be able to document whether mortality and growth rates vary in each area."

Tagging fish aboard the Ellen Diane

The tagging project is a cooperative research effort among several governmental and academic institutions, as well as participating fish harvesters. The June tagging trip was conducted off a commercial groundfish boat, the Ellen Diane, owned by David Goethel.

"This is a project where fishermen and scientists work side by side to both develop and carry out research that will better enable us to effectively manage our yellowtail fishery," said Goethel. "Each group brought their strengths to the project to get the best quality fish tagged, with the least bycatch, in the most cost effective manner."

Organizers hope to tag 20,000 fish in the Gulf of Maine, off Cape Cod, and on Georges Bank in trips with commercial harvesters planned out of Chatham, Provincetown, and New Bedford, Massachusetts as well as Westport, Maine. Another 10,000 yellowtail flounder are to be tagged this summer in the species' Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic stock component, through a similar program managed by the University of Massachusetts School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST).

Two types of tags are being used – a pink disk tag and a data storage tag – visible on the fish on its topside, just above the side-fin. If returned, the pink disks will provide information on location and time at liberty for the tagged fish. The data storage tags, which look like a computer chip and are about the size of a standard paper clip, provide a continuous record of location and depth during the fish's time at liberty.

Pink disk tag (left), and data storage tag (above)

The tags are marked with a unique number and phone number to call if found. Some specially-marked pink disk tags and all data storage tags are "instant winners"– netting the finder an immediate $100 reward for return. All other returned pink tags will be entered into a lottery for a drawing where winners can take home $1,000.

"Every tag we put out there is important," says Cadrin, "and we will make the information gathered available as quickly as possible." Data will be posted to a website.

Returns are expected over a span of years, and organizers also hope for additional tagging years as part of the effort in order to increase coverage and likelihood of returns.

Found tags can be reported to (877)826-2612, and mailed to YTF Tagging Project, 166 Water St., Woods Hole, MA 02543. In addition to the tag and location (lat/long.) of the capture, finders should report depth of capture and the length of the fish. For instant winner tags (specially-marked pink disks and all data storage tags), organizers also need a few scales, taken from near the tail, mailed in with the tag.

The yellowtail project is one of three large-scale cooperative tagging projects ongoing in the region. The others are for Atlantic cod and black sea bass. Partners in the yellowtail project include participating fish harvesters, SMAST, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, the, Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife, the New Bedford Fishing Family Assistance Center, the Manomet Center for Conservation Science and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.


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