Florida anglers have contributed more than 3,000 DNA samples to the Tarpon Genetic Recapture Study, far exceeding the goal of 2,500 samples set for 2009.
Anglers from across the state are taking part in the voluntary program, a joint project of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and the Mote Marine Laboratory. Results from the Tarpon Genetic Recapture Study help assess the effectiveness and mortality associated with catch-and-release fishing for the popular trophy species, and offer insight into tarpon movement and migration around the state.
Sampling has been simplified in the past couple of years. No longer is fin clipping required to identify fish; rather a small abrasive pad wiped across the tarpon's cheek, then dropped into a bottle of preservative, provides a permanent record of that fish's DNA. The fish can remain in the water for sampling and one person can perform the necessary steps, unassisted.
Each sample identifies a tarpon's genetic "fingerprint," providing a unique tag for that particular fish. Conventional tags may break or dislodge, but because a genetic code never changes, DNA samples accurately identify fish over the course of its life. Researchers compare new tarpon DNA samples with cataloged samples to determine if that fish was caught and sampled previously.
So far, biologists have recorded 23 recaptured tarpon from locations across the state, including Miami, the Florida Keys, Fort Myers, Boca Grande, Sarasota, Tampa Bay and the Indian River Lagoon.
Anglers who would like to participate can obtain tarpon sampling kits by emailing TarponGenetics@MyFWC.com or by calling 1-800-367-4461. News and information on the tagging program is posted at http://research.myfwc.com