Catch and Release in Marine Recreational Fisheries

In-Water Conventional Tagging Techniques Developed by the Cooperative Tagging Center for Large, Highly Migratory Species

E. D. Prince, M. Ortiz, A. Venizelos, and D. S. Rosenthal

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569308.ch21

Abstract.—The Cooperative Tagging Center (CTC) of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center operates one of the largest and oldest fish tagging programs of its type in the world. Since 1954, more than 35,000 recreational and commercial fishing constituents have voluntarily participated in the CTC, and this has resulted in tagging more than 245,000 fish of 123 species. Although some tagging activities have been conducted by scientists, most of the tag release and recovery activities were achieved by recreational and commercial fishery constituents. Five large highly migratory species have historically represented the Program’s primary target species, including Atlantic bluefin tuna Thunnus thynnus, blue marlin Makaira nigricans, white marlin Tetrapturus albidus, sailfish Istiophorus platypterus, and broadbill swordfish Xiphias gladius. Tagging equipment and procedures for catching, tagging, and resuscitation of species too large to be brought aboard fishing vessels have evolved and improved considerably over the years. This paper presents a review of the development of the most efficient tagging, handling, and dehooking techniques used on a variety of large, highly migratory species in the CTC. In addition, the results of a comparative tag retention study on billfish are presented, comparing stainless steel dart tags used for nearly 30 years with a hydroscopic nylon double-barb dart tag, recently developed in conjunction with The Billfish Foundation. Recommendations are made on the best techniques, procedures, and equipment for in-water tagging of large, highly migratory species.