ORI celebrates 30 years' success in fish-tagging project

  • 28 September 2014 | Ann Kunz

The yellow tag can be seen below the dorsal fin of this fish

The Oceanographic Research Institute’s Cooperative Fish Tagging Project (ORI-CFTP) has been hailed as one of South Africa's most successful marine citizen science projects.

Now in its 30th year, ORI-CFTP was the brainchild of past ORI director Rudy van der Elst. The fish-tagging project was launched in 1984 and continues to be one of the most enduring and successful environmental projects of its kind in the country.

By the end of 2013, 5 390 anglers had joined the project, of whom 3 672 had tagged at least one or more fish. During the Tagging Project’s 30-year history (1984-2013) more than 274 000 fish representing 368 different species have been tagged and released, of which 14 973 (5.5%) were recaptured.

The five most commonly tagged species to date include galjoen (Dichistius capensis), dusky kob (Argyrosomus japonicus), dusky shark (Carcharhinus obscurus), garrick/leervis (Lichia amia) and spotted grunter (Pomadasys commersonnii).

Among many thousands of recaptures, the most outstanding include a red steenbras (Petrus rupestris) tagged in the Tsitsikamma National Park in 1989 and recaptured off Kei Mouth in 2011, 22.1 years later; a yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) tagged off Cape Point and recaptured near the Seychelles some 5 200 km away; a ragged-tooth shark (Carcharias taurus) tagged at Southbroom in 1988 and recaptured in Mossel Bay in 2011, 22.6 years later; and a yellowbelly rockcod (Epinephelus marginatus) tagged in the Pondoland Marine Protected Area, and recaptured nine times on the same reef over a three-year period.

It is these incredible recaptures that make this project so exciting and beneficial. Information from the tagging project has been extensively used in numerous research projects, scientific publications, popular articles and a number of post-graduate theses. The results generated by this project have also contributed extensively to wise decision-making on linefish management in South Africa.

The most important benefit of the project has been the positive impact on improving angler awareness and knowledge about our linefish resources. The concept of “tag-and-release” initiated by this project, has been partly responsible for changing the ethics of the recreational fishing community, many of whom are better informed and release their catch, thereby contributing to a more sustainable fishing future.

If you see or hear of any angler who has caught a tagged fish, please offer to assist him/her to record the relevant information (tag number, species, correct length measurement, exact locality, date, angler's name and contact details and whether the fish was kept or released) and offer to send the information in to us on their behalf. In that way you will be assisting in educating fellow anglers about the tagging project, and ensuring that the recapture data gets to us for recording purposes.

Anyone interested in joining the ORI tagging project, should contact the Tagging Officer at ORI for further information:

Phone: (031) 328 8159 / Cell: 079 529 0711 / Fax (031) 328 8188

Email: oritag@ori.org.za

Post: The Tagging Officer, Box 736, Durban, 4000.

Click on the link to see the annual Tagging Newsletter

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