Information Will Help
Improve Sea Bass
NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center
N E W SWoods Hole, Mass. – NOAA Fisheries biologists are offering rewards for the return of orange and red tags affixed last month to black sea bass in ocean waters off six East Coast states. The biologists will use the tagging information to improve their understanding of the abundance and distribution of black sea bass.
The tags are thin orange or red tubes, 3.5 inches long, extending from the bass’ abdomen. Fishermen are asked to remove the tags and call the telephone number on the tags to report the tag number, date and location of capture, length of fish, and gear type. The reward for returning information about red tags is $100. The reward for information about orange tags is an embroidered baseball cap.
The tagging project is a joint effort of federal and state scientists and commercial and recreational fishermen from six coastal states, ranging from Virginia north to Massachusetts. More than 3,000 black sea bass were captured, tagged and released in a three-week period at sites off the coasts of Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The tagged fish are at least three years old and include both legal and sub-legal size fish.
More than 40 fishermen have already called in to report tags, according to Gary Shepherd, a NOAA Fisheries biologist who organized the project.
The stock of black sea bass being studied ranges from Virginia to Massachusetts Bay. The fish are generally found inshore from May to October, where they are harvested in a commercial pot fishery and in commercial and recreational rod-and-reel fisheries. From October to April the fish move offshore where they are targeted by commercial fishermen using trawl gear.
NOAA Fisheries produces stock assessments of black sea bass that fishery managers use to set quotas for both recreational and commercial harvest. The assessment is based on a multi-species survey that is not particularly well-suited for catching bass.
Shepherd said information from the tagging project will help fishery biologists make better estimates of the stock size and distribution. The tagging should also provide information about black sea bass growth rates and migration, and the rate at which commercial and recreational fisherman harvest the fish.
Fishermen are asked not to scrape tags encrusted with algae, as scraping may remove information printed on the tags. Gentle rubbing should be sufficient to remove growth.
The survey was funded by MARFIN (Marine Fisheries Initiative) funds and other money designated by Congress for fishery research conducted cooperatively with fishermen. The states and the fishing industry provided support in the form of people to conduct the tagging. Current plans call for another round of tagging in the spring.