NSW game fishers contribute valuable data to fisheries research

Over 70,000 marlin have been tagged and released under the NSW DPI program. Image: Patrick Linehan

FOLLOWING a controversial game fishing article published by the ABC, we take a look at the contribution of NSW game fishers to fisheries science through the NSW DPI Game Fish Tagging Program.

The NSW DPI’s tagging program is the largest saltwater tagging program of its kind in the world and has been in operation since 1973.

It is used to obtain information on the biology (distribution, movement and growth) of billfish, tunas, sharks and sport fish and encourages recreational game fishers to participate in the management of the fishery.

There have been over 480,000 fish tagged under this long running citizen science program to date, with several thousand anglers around Australia participating in the program each year. There have been over 25 scientific publications that have utilised or cited data from the tagging program over the last 10 years.

Julian Pepperell, an Australian marine biologist and a leading authority on marlin, sailfish, tuna, and sharks says the scientific value of the game fish tagging program may not be widely realised.

“The data accumulated on the Game Fish Tagging Program is often sought for a wide variety of studies of aspects of the biology and fisheries of pelagic fishes.” said Pepperell in the Game Fish Tagging Report 2017-18.

Julian Pepperell also said several reports, university theses and peer-reviewed scientific papers have utilised data from the program.

“And it is not just information derived from recaptures of tagged fish that make the Game Fish Tagging Program so valuable. Understanding changes through time in availability of fish or fishing activities of the recreational sector would not be possible in the absence of the tagging program.

“Thus, the tagging database is widely recognised as a vital source of information on long term trends in the relative abundance of pelagic fish, and is used wherever possible for studies on changes in catches in relation to historic environmental variables such as temperature, chlorophyll, sea height and El Nino/La Nina cycles.” he said.

Recreational anglers have tagged over 37,000 kingfish under the program. Image: Scott Thomas

For more information on the tagging program:

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