BCSS International Tagging Programme – following large predators & pelagics

June 14, 2019 | Alex Weiss

The BCSS marine station & the WIO (Western Indian Ocean) Ocean Observatory recently received international approval using ICCAT tagging codes to coordinate two large-scale tagging programs concerning large pelagics/predators & migratory game fish.

Owing to its privileged position on the edge of the continental shelf with deep waters of between 200 – 1000 m, the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park (BANP) is a unique place in the world to find large pelagics, predators and migratory game fish. The BANP inshore and offshore waters are important nursery areas for tuna species, billfish and sharks and also hold an incredible amount of pelagic gamefish and reef fish.

The Bazaruto Center for Scientific Studies (BCSS) and the Kisawa Sanctuary sit in front of extremely productive fishing grounds, which include 1000lb + Black Marlin. Whilst sport fishing is world class in the area, BCSS is also primely located to undertake important tagging efforts of large pelagics and migratory game fish such as marlin, yellowfin tuna, all kinds of sharks, wahoo, mahi-mahi, among others.

Tagging is an important scientific procedure to investigate fish spatial distribution and movements, migratory routes, habitat utilization, hotspots, and spawning areas. Gaining information about fish movement, migrations stock structure, assists researchers and fishermen across the world ensure that fishing is done in a sustainable manner as well as management authorities to enforce the right measures and laws. BCSS is currently managing via Dr. Mario Lebrato, two international tagging projects in line with the standards and procedures (i.e. handling, deploying, tag coding, reporting, and recovery) developed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas(ICCAT), to assist in global conservation efforts of large pelagics and other migratory fish including an Atlantic Ocean & Mediterranean Sea Bluefin Tuna tagging project, and an Indian Ocean Tuna, Gamefish, Sharks, and Billfish tagging project.

Whilst sport fishing is world class in the area, BCSS is also primely located to undertake important tagging efforts of large pelagics and migratory game fish such as marlin, yellowfin tuna, all kinds of sharks, wahoo, mahi-mahi, among others.

BCSS is managing an Indian Ocean Yellowfin (Thunnus albacares) and Skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis), Wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri), Mahi-Mahi (Coryphaena hippurus), King Mackerel (Scomberomorus cavalla), Black (Istiompax indica) and Blue Marlin (Makaira nigricans) tagging project using for now conventional tags, but that will expand later to satellite tagging. BCSS is also managing the TITAN RED Challenge tagging effort that takes place in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, facilitating Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus) tagging, genetic sample recovery and filming (in conjunction with GoFishCam). Dr. Jan McDowell of the Virgina Institute of Marine Sciences (VIMS) is assisting in the research aspect of the projects (facilitating genetic sample recovery, preparation, analytics and publication). The BCSS tagging efforts in the Indian Ocean will also build on existing work on acoustic tagging on sharks (Bull – Carcharhinus leucas, Hammerhead – Sphyrna lewini, and Tiger – Galeocerdo cuvier) which will integrate ICCAT codes. Currently, PhD student Mr. Calum Murie from Underwater Africa is leading shark tagging efforts in the area.

 As part of BCSS’s ambition of making data available to the public, the data from these projects will be available in the future on both the ICCAT as well as BCSS Data Repository.