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Download the Cooperative Shark Tagging Program Booklet


All identifiable shark species except smooth dogfish (Mustelus canis) and spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) can be tagged. Tagging area is the North Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean & Mediterranean Seas.


Please do not open the capsule prior to tagging. Capsules contain the following message in English, Spanish, French, Norwegian, and Japanese: M Tag


tag pole

Commercial tag poles are available for purchase, or you may construct your own.

Tagging needles should be firmly mounted in 1" to 1¼" diameter hardwood doweling 6' to 8' long, and should protrude from the pole 2½".

The dart head fits loosely into the slotted point in the needle, and the entire tag is held in place by rubber bands 2" to 3" up on the pole. The dart head should be curved so that the two rear points will face downwards into the muscle when the tag is inserted.

tags on tagging pole

Tags should be driven into the back near the first dorsal fin. This area lies to the side of the backbone and above the body cavity. The ideal location on large sharks is in the muscle at the very base of the first dorsal fin.

Position of tag on shark

It is most important that the capsule assumes a TRAILING POSITION on the shark. Insert the dart at an angle toward the head end of the fish. The skin of a shark is well known for its toughness, but by holding the pole 2' to 3' above the shark and making a strong, quick thrust, the dart should penetrate even large fish.

When the tag is correctly inserted, the dart head will come to rest approximately 1" to 1½" beneath the shark's skin. If you fish from shore or catch many small sharks, the tagging needle can be mounted in a short handled dowel (8"). In tagging small sharks, care must be taken to avoid injury to the backbone. To control the depth of penetration of the dart head, an incision can be made with the point of a knife and the dart head then carefully forced into the muscle. We do not recommend tagging sharks less than 3' in length with dart tags.

Tag position diagram


Shark fishing is so diversified an activity with respect to the species, sizes, fishing areas and methods, that no set of tagging instructions can be rigidly applied to all sharks under all conditions. We recognize that the experienced fisherman is often in the best position to judge the safest and most effective means for tagging sharks. Nevertheless, some fundamental procedures are essential to the survival of tagged sharks and for obtaining accurate information.

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