The Gamefish Tagging Program (GTP) was established in the 1970’s primarily to give recreational fishers, and in particular gamefishers, the opportunity to assist in gathering research data. NSW Fisheries supplies fish tags to members of registered fishing clubs affiliated with the Game Fishing Association of Australia (GFAA). These members undertake the tagging of gamefish since the growing tendency for game and sportfishers to only weigh potentially record or tournament winning fish provides an excellent opportunity for tagging of large numbers of otherwise discarded gamefish on an economically viable basis.
Four types of tag are currently in use:
• small and medium size nylon-headed single barbed
• stainless steel-headed tag with a plastic streamer
• special nylon head Billfish multi-barbed.
All the tags are labeled with a number and a return address printed on the streamer. Each tag is attached to a numbered, pre paid card with a description of where to place the tag in the fish. Tags are usually placed in the shoulder of fish brought alongside the boat. Data recorded includes the date and location of fish, boat, angler and captain’s name, estimated size of fish, and its condition.
The program operates through 84 Gamefishing Clubs throughout Australia, with the main concentration being along the East Coast. Over 18,000 anglers have been involved in the program, each tagging at least one fish. The main species tagged include billfish (black, striped and blue marlin, sailfish, spearfish, swordfish), tunas (yellowfin, bluefin, big-eye, albacore), sharks (whalers, tiger, mako, thresher, blue, hammerhead), kingfish, mackerel and other pelagic species.
The GTP is very popular with gamefishers and sportfishers who regard the continuation of the program as essential to the long term existence of their sport. Since its inception, the program has expanded both geographically and in terms of numbers of fish tagged and recaptured. All the large saltwater gamefish tournaments held in Australia have a large tagging section within them. This “release them alive” ethic has spread throughout the gamefishing community and is largely due to this program.
The GTP provides information on the movements and distribution of fish, encourages the release of juvenile fish, discourages the retention of large catches, encourages anglers to adhere to sustainability principles, develops an appreciation in anglers for the biology of gamefish and develops an appreciation of the bag and size limits. In this regard the GTP contributes to the sustainability of fishery resources while educating the fishing community about fisheries laws. The program may also contribute to a sharing of the resource, and facilitate the perception of community ownership and responsibility for fishery resources.