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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - Aging Lab

Marine Fisheries



But then a red drum is called a drum because it makes a noise, and it needs to be able to hear the noises other red drum make.

There are two methods of removing otoliths from a fish, said Aging Lab Technician Kevin Aman. The easier method is to slice the fish’s head off, but at tournaments and fish markets, it’s better to go in through the gills so that the fish remains intact, he said.

Most of the otoliths that come to the Aging Lab, come from various division sampling programs with a form that lists the species, length, weight and sex of the fish.

Aging Lab technicians use a rock cutting saw with a diamond saw blade to grind to the middle otolith, called the focus. They use UV glue to mount the grinded side to a glass slide.

“Then you grind in a different direction to the other side of the focus until it is paper thin and can read through it,” said Aging Lab Technician Jacob Boyd.

The division has been aging fish since the late 1980s, but the Aging Lab did not form until 1995. By centralizing the operation, the division was able to concentrate all its aging equipment into one place and hire staff who specialize in this area.

“The Aging Lab does the bulk of the aging for the division,” Gregory said.

Funded by a federal Sport Fish Restoration Fund grant, Aging Lab staff age 14 different species, all recreational fish. From 2006 to 2010, the Aging Lab aged 27,572 fish of all ages up to a 43-year-old red drum.

“Red drum are the oldest ones that we age,” Gregory said.

The Aging Lab also has a Marine Fisheries Initiative (MARFIN) grant from NOAA Fisheries Service to conduct length and age sampling of the commercial snapper/grouper fishery.

Aging Lab Technician Garry Wright is using a computer program to compare shapes of otoliths to identify different sub-stocks of vermillion snapper.

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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