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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - Background

Marine Fisheries

Tagging Program Background

striped bass  red drum spotted sea trout southern flounder
 perch  dolphin yellow perch

General Information

Reporting the tagged fish you catch is one of the easiest and best ways to get involved in N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ tagging programs. The success of this program depends on reports of tags and capture information. Also, when you report a tag, the division will send you a reward, a letter and a certificate that includes information about when and where your fish was tagged, days since tagging, distance traveled and more.

The division is tagging striped bass, red drum, spotted seatrout and southern flounder throughout the estuarine and ocean waters of North Carolina. Tags are only placed in healthy fish.

For striped bass and spotted seatrout, the division uses internal anchor tags, placed in the belly of the fish just behind the pelvic fin. The division uses cinch-up tags, placed through the caudal peduncle in front of the tail fin for southern flounder, and steel dart tags, placed to the left of the dorsal fin for red drum. These tag types and locations allow for maximum retention and aim to remain unobtrusive over time. Two tag colors are used in this study: yellow and red. All tags are printed with a unique tag number, telephone number, and a request to "cut off tag."

Project Background

The division currently conducts stock assessments on many fish stocks, including striped bass, red drum, spotted seatrout and southern flounder. Collectively, these four species have an annual economic impact of greater than $100 million and are among the most recreationally and commercially important fisheries in North Carolina. The implementation of best management practices, contingent on timely, accurate and precise assessments of stock status, is a high priority for the division.

Currently, spotted seatrout, red drum and striped bass are managed under the jurisdiction of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Interstate Fishery Management Plans. In North Carolina waters, management of all four species has been deferred to state fishery management plans, either under the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission (spotted seatrout, red drum, southern flounder) or jointly under the division and Wildlife Resources Commission (striped bass). The current state fishery management plans for each species include research recommendations to estimate migration and mortality rates through tagging studies.

Statistical computer models, used for stock assessments, have been developed to merge information about tag-returns and catch-at-age data (information on the age of a fish, derived from the length of a fish) to more accurately estimate mortality and abundance or biomass, the two parameters required to assess stock status. Combining tag-return data with the type of catch-at-age data currently collected by the division is a powerful, cutting edge approach to improving estimates of mortality and population size compared to traditional age-structured computer models alone. Greater accuracy in estimates of stock status results in more informed and responsive management of fisheries.
N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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