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NOAA science center concludes Cooperative Billfish Tagging Program

By BY DONNELL TATE/Harbor Report - | Jul 16, 2021

Since March 2020, the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) federal building in La Jolla, California, has undergone various stages of restricted access and closures due to COVID-19 safety protocols.

As a result, the center was unable to send billfish tags to tournaments or individual anglers in 2020. SWFSC appreciates your patience and understanding during this unprecedented time.

SWFSC has an important announcement to share with the community.

As of May 2021, the SWFSC will discontinue the Cooperative Billfish Tagging Program (CBTP).

Liana N. Heberer, fisheries assistant specialist at the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of California Santa Cruz and SWFSC, explained, “This means we will no longer distribute new billfish tags, the International Billfish Angler Survey, or the Billfish Newsletter.

“However, we will continue to log tag recoveries, so please continue to report recaptured billfish tags or the release of any existing tags in your possession. If other options for continuation of tagging efforts through another organization become available, we will send out an e-mail notification.”

What this means for captains and anglers:

You will no longer receive annual tag bundles, e-mail updates, the International Billfish Angler Survey or the Billfish Newsletter.

If you have unused tags, continue fishing, tagging and reporting! The center will continue to archive tagging information for tags that have not yet been deployed or for completed tagging report cards.

Please report any recaptures, as this data will also be archived.

Looking ahead, all the Billfish Newsletters released since 1964 will be archived on the SWFSC website around June 2021.

Updated data on tag releases and recoveries from 1963-2021 will be posted for public download by the end of 2021. The public dataset will NOT include Personal Identifying Information (PII) such as names, e-mail or physical addresses. It will, however, include anonymous angler sequence numbers and biological and fishing information. More information about accessing the data will be posted on the SWFSC Billfish Research page around June 2021.

Included in the 2020 Billfish Newsletter are the tagging and survey data for 2018, 2019 and 2020.

The 2020 data only includes tags received by mail at the SWFSC as of Feb. 10, 2021.

Heberer noted, “We understand there are likely 2020 tag report cards that arrived at the SWFSC following the release of this newsletter, so the 2020 data presented here may not be comprehensive. Tags arriving to the SWFSC after Feb. 10, 2021 will be added to the database for public viewing and download.

“Since 1963, the CBTP has operated with and for ethical anglers dedicated to the catch, tag and release of these amazing species. We hope this global practice continues to inspire the next generation of anglers well past the end of the CBTP. Above all, we thank you for your participation in our research, your enthusiasm for conservation science and your sharing of your time and knowledge for nearly 60 years! Keep fishing and practicing ethical angling!”