There is a new buzz word going around the scientific community that is changing the way we view our roles in helping to better manage our precious resources. I am referring to the term ‘citizen scientist’ which allows anyone to take an active role in aiding scientists in the collection of important information which otherwise would not be possible. Though this concept has recently been becoming more popular, organizations like The Billfish Foundation (TBF) have been conducting such a program for more than 20 years through its tag and release program. Anglers taking participating in the tagging program have helped to provide critical information that is essential to TBF’s goal of conserving these amazing species like marlin, swordfish and sailfish for generations to come.
So why is this such a big deal? Since encountering these species is rare, TBF established the Tagging Program in 1990. TBF is proud to now hold the largest private billfish tagging database (close to 200,000 tag and release reports) because of efforts from the recreational community. Being dependent on the efforts of citizen scientist in the form of recreational anglers shows that anglers really care about the resources they are so passionate about and are willing to give back. It is through the information collected from our tagging program that provides the governing bodies with crucial information such as growth rates, longevity, migratory patterns, habitat utilization, and for stock assessment of billfish. Anyone can participate since the tags are inexpensive and effective; they just need to purchase tagging equipment from their local tackle shop or TBF’s website. A full kit of tagging equipment (tags, tag cards, tag bag, tag stick and applicator) costs about $75. The low cost and the ease of reporting the data (via mail or online) allows TBF’s traditional tagging program to annually receive over 10,000 tag and release records worldwide.
TBF’s Tag and Release Program receives about 100 recaptured tagged billfish reports a year and is proud to have some of the highest recapture rates because of the cooperation of the recreational community. One of the most exciting aspects of the program is when a recapture of a tagged billfish is reported and seeing what secrets it has to reveal. For even those who study these amazing creatures it is still astonishing to learn of some of the amazing feats they are capable of. For instance, this year a swordfish was recaptured more than 2500 miles from where it was tagged in matter of only 7 months and a white marlin that was recaptured after being abroad for more than 14 years after being tagged!
By allowing everyone to participate in research, not only does it allow TBF to receive a large amount of data each year but the participants feel connected to “their” fish, wonder where it will end up, and who might encounter it next. While most of our recapture reports are based in the Atlantic Ocean, TBF receives reports from the Pacific and the Indian Ocean (including Japan and Australia). The global success of TBF’s Tag and Release Program has been through its evolution and creating new excitement in tagging billfish. TBF engages program participants by making the data transparent – posting recaptured tag maps on Facebook, Twitter, and on the website in addition to contacting and rewarding everyone involved in the recaptured billfish. TBF encourages more anglers to tag billfish since traditional tagging data provided still provides up to 70 percent of what is known about billfish.
If you are interested in learning more about TBF’s Tag and Release Program or would like to purchase tagging equipment, please visit us at www.billfish.org or contact us at (800) 438-8247 or email@example.com.
Rosenstiel School Alumnus – MAF 2007
Director of Science and Policy
The Billfish Foundation
Rosenstiel School Student & TBF Intern
Master of Professional Science: Marine Conservation
The Billfish Foundation