The Tarpon Genetic Recapture Study tracks and studies tarpon using DNA samples that provide a unique genetic "fingerprint" for each fish. DNA samples have been collected from over 17,000 tarpon in the seven years of the program. Every year researchers publish the latest findings from the study.
The following are interesting findings from the 2012 season. Numbers listed below are tabulated as of October 31, 2012:
- In 2012, fishing guides and recreational anglers collected 4,346 tarpon DNA samples. Scientist contributed an additional 263 samples.
- 143 tarpon have been caught and sampled more than once.
- One juvenile tarpon in the Sebastian River, Florida was caught and sampled three times in three months.
- One recreational angler, Jon Mallory of Merritt Island, Florida caught and sampled and incredible 975 tarpon in 2012.
- An adult tarpon sampled off Sarasota County, Florida was sampled again less than a month later in Islamorada. About a month later it was sampled again in Islamorada.
- Of the 4,606 tarpon DNA samples collected in 2012, 4,387 came from the United States and 222 came from other countries.
- DNA samples were collected in five states. Florida led all states with 4,343 samples.
- Brevard County was tops of all Florida counties with 1,276 DNA samples in 2012. Monroe County was second with 832 while Lee County was third with 828.
All tarpon anglers are encouraged to support the Tarpon Genetic Recapture Program. Collecting tarpon DNA samples is as easy as scraping a small amount of skin cells from the tarpon's jaw using an abrasive sponge. You can obtain free DNA sampling kits and kit refills by calling toll free 1-800-367-4461 or by emailing TarponGenetics@MyFWC.com. The kit includes instructions, abrasive sponges, vials for storing and transporting samples, and data slips for recording catch data. Samples can be mailed directly to the Tarpon Genetics team or dropped off at one of the hundreds of statewide collection locations. Here is a list of drop off sites.