Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tag-a-Tiny 2007 starts off with an “X”

Report from Cape Cod Mass.

Tag-a-Tiny 2007 began in the wee hours of August 13th in a quiet neighborhood of Cape Cod Massachusetts. Members of the Large Pelagics Research Lab climbed aboard the F/V Tammy Rose, captained by Eric Stewart, and set off for the fishing grounds near the Regal Sword. Our mission; deploy the first ever miniature pop-up satellite tags, a.k.a. X-Tags, on juvenile bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus).

Microwave Telemetry Inc. X-Tag and PTT-100

Heavy fog lay over the fishing grounds making it difficult to locate bait or feeding tuna on the surface. After several hours of radio chatter and squinting at the gray horizon, we heard the electrifying sound of line ripping off the reel. We had a bite! Cliff Hampton, co-owner of The Hook-up! © tackle shop, and our wizened angler, brought the fish quickly to the boat. Once aboard, we attached the X-Tag, measured the fish, and returned it to its business of feeding on sand eels in these productive waters.

Billy Keith and Cliff Hampton with a fish on

Unlike the implanted archival tags we deployed in 2005-2006, X-Tags will release after a year of attachment and transmit temperature, depth and position information from the surface, making the recovery of migration and behavior data fishery independent. Until now, pop-up satellite tags have been too large to deploy on juveniles. Our efforts represent an important advance for bluefin biology as the migration routes, as well as behavior relative to depth and temperature, of juvenile Atlantic bluefin tuna is largely unknown.

By the end of the day we had deployed five X-Tags on juvenile bluefin tuna off Cape Cod. History was made but our tagging efforts have just begun. We will continue with our X-Tag and implantable archival tagging this season and continue to fill gaps in knowledge surrounding juvenile bluefin behavior and migration.

Tag-a-Tiny team and crew of the F/V Tammy Rose (Bass River, Cape Cod MA) celebrate the first ever X-Tags deployed on juvenile bluefin tuna

From left to right: Billy Keith, first mate of the Tammy Rose; Ben Galuardi, LPRL; Cliff Hampton, long time angler and co-owner of The Hook-up! ©; Eric Stewart, captain and co-owner of The Hook-up! ©; Greg Skomal, Shark Biologist, Mass. Div. of Marine Fisheries, Jessie Knapp, Ph.D student LPRL; John Logan, , Ph.D student LPRL; Dr. Molly Lutcavage, Director, LPRL

-Ben Galuardi, Research Scientist LPRL
Photo credits: Ben Galuardi and Greg Skomal