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Fishermen Asked to Return Tags to Scientists

6 January 2005

Fishermen Asked to Return Tags to Scientists

If you're out fishing for the big one this summer, make sure you check your snapper for a metal tag with a yellow sensor stalk before throwing it on the barbeque, you could earn yourself $200.

University of Auckland postgraduate student Daniel Egli has tagged 13 snapper with a metal data storage unit called a geolocation tag, which tracks the migratory patterns of the fish.

Based within the Faculty of Science's Leigh Marine Laboratory, Daniel says the tags are needed to access data, which is invaluable. The geolocator tag cannot be tracked and the researchers are relying on people to return the tags if they catch one of the tagged snapper.

"The tag, fitted in the gut cavity of the snapper, is about seven centimetres long and has a 22cm fluorescent stalk trailing out the underside. Although small, it can store more than two years worth of data about the snapper and its travels, including the depth, temperature of the fish and the sea.

"All our contact details are on the tag so anyone that finds them can easily return them and as an incentive, we are offering a $200 reward for each tag we receive."

The tagged snapper were released a year ago into the Goat Island reserve (north of Auckland) and so far no tags have been returned.

Not all the tagged snapper are left to the mercy of fishermen though. Five of the 13 snapper also have acoustic transmitters implanted, which allow researchers to track their location.

"After the spawning season, around mid-February we will go out and locate these fish to retrieve the tags. Our last check located four of the five snapper still in the reserve and we expect the majority of the 13 snapper to return to the reserve this summer, presuming they aren't caught first."

The data from the geolocator will help scientists establish where the snapper go once the fish are beyond the boundary of the reserve.

"It records light levels every 32 seconds, helping us to calculate the path the snapper has travelled," says Daniel.

Previous studies have shown that snapper either become residents within the area they live in or they regularly migrate, meaning the snapper will leave the area for a period of time and then return. One acoustically tagged snapper was caught as far away as Rangitoto Channel near Auckland.

The research, which is being undertaken in collaboration with the Department of Conservation, is aimed at understanding the role marine reserves play in the protection of fish populations by tracking their migratory and reproductive movement patterns. This information is also important for the sustainable management of wild fish populations.

Fisherman throughout the Hauraki Gulf are being asked to check their snapper for the tags and to call The University of Auckland's Leigh Marine Laboratory on (09) 422 6111 if they find one.

The Laboratory is also looking for plastic tags attached to snapper from a concurrent study monitoring the proportion of reserve fish that are caught outside the reserve. They are offering a t-shirt if the tag is returned with the location of where it has been caught.


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