of Tagging Project
Teri Frady, NOAA
NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center
N E W S
Woods Hole, MA Six $100 rewards for tag returns have been handed out and another 168 tags are in the $1,000 lottery as the first field season for a massive yellowtail tagging project is drawing to a close.
Between June and August, federal scientists and commercial fishermen tagged 7,665 yellowtail flounder off New England The final trip in this year’s effort finished August 20 in Phippsburg, Maine. Tagging is planned in other parts of the range later this year, and organizers hope to tag thousands more fish in the second year of the project, just funded by the Northeast Consortium, and beginning next Spring.
“All of our trips were outstanding,” said Steve Cadrin, NOAA Fisheries study manager. “By working with commercial vessels and experienced hands, we were able to make a good start. The study really benefits from expert understanding about when and where fish concentrate and how to maneuver among them.”
Vessel owner Rodney Avila, Sr. said of the project, “I believe that we will get a lot of valuable information when these tags are returned.” Avila said that on a recent regular groundfish trip his vessel caught nine tagged yellowtail from the study. “All of the fish were in good condition, showing that the survival rate was good,” he said. “ I hope that we can gather information about migration patterns and growth rate of these yellowtail. I firmly believe that these kinds of projects only enhance the management of these fisheries, and get fishermen thinking about the future well being of the fisheries.”
Most returned tags are pink plastic discs that provide information on fish location at tagging and re-capture. Three are the more sophisticated data storage tags that provide more information on what the fish was doing while at liberty. All returned data storage tags, and some spcecially-marked disc tags, are good for immediate $100 rewards. The rest of the tags are entered in a lottery in which winning tags will net the returner $1,000.
“Data storage tags record temperature and depth,” says Azure Westwood, NOAA fisheries project field manager. “It's too early to draw any conclusions, but when we downloaded the information from the three returned tags of this kind, we could detect tidal cycles and off-bottom movements. Looking at recent Canadian data obtained through a similar tagging project, as well as data from more returns may help us better understand the vertical as well as horizontal movements of these fish during their lives."
The project is intended to gather data on where fish go and how much they move. With enough tag returns, researchers may also be able to document whether mortality and growth rates vary in each area. 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.
In the second year of the project, organizers intend to tag thousands more fish in an effort to cover most of the flounder’s range in the Northeast. “We also hope to involve new vessels and crews in the tagging trips,” said Cadrin. The federal tagging effort will resume next spring, with tagging trips in the Gulf of Maine and on Georges Bank.
A complementary yellowtail flounder tagging effort program is managed by the University of Massachusetts School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST), and is planned for this Fall in the species’ Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic stock component..
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, the University of Massachusetts SMAST, the Northeast Consortium, 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.
Complete information on the tagging program and how to return tags can be found on the study website. 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 or Loran) of the capture, finders should report date, depth of capture, and the length of the fish. For instant winner tags (specially-marked pink disks and all data storage tags), and specially-marked “scale sample” tags, organizers also need a few scales, taken from near the tail, mailed in with the tag.