Look out for tagged fish at Kapiti

Department of Conservation —  13/09/2019 — Leave a comment

A new project to find out more about the fish around Kapiti Island is using tags to track their movements. It relies on people reporting any tagged fish they catch – and ideally letting them go again.

The tags are small plastic sticks with a unique identification number that’s recorded online by both the tagger and the person who recaptures them.

Small plastic tag with identification number. 📷: Chris Paulin

“This is a really unique opportunity for fishers to interact with our natural environment and learn a little bit more about the sea”, says marine scientist Dr Monique Ladds, who is leading the project.

“In the process, fishers are really helping us better understand fish populations in the area. It’s also pretty exciting when you catch a fish that’s been caught and tagged before.”

Lauretta Bensemann catching fish to tag. 📷: Monique Ladds

Kapiti Marine Reserve was created 25 years ago. Since then, research and monitoring studies have recorded changes in many species, including the number and size of some fish inside and outside the marine reserve.

Thanks to support from Air New Zealand, DOC has been able to take a different approach to the research in this project: asking the people who know the area best, what they are most interested in.

“Before we started, we talked to lots of people including iwi, the Guardians of Kapiti Marine Reserve and researchers from Victoria University of Wellington. One of questions raised was about seals.”

“At Kapiti, fur seals are starting to extend their range back to where they lived before exploitation. This shows that the marine environment around Kapiti is changing – and people wanted to find out how.”

To answer this question, our marine team gathered information about the seal population and their diet, and what fish live around Kapiti. But it was hard to find out much about where the fish were going. That’s where the tagging project comes in.

Scott Tindale (left) and Clinton Duffy baiting up using barbless hooks to catch and tag fish.
📷: Monique Ladds

Monique says the research team decided the best way to kick off the project was to get out on the water and give it a go themselves.

“We’re building a computer model to see how different scenarios would play out, like how more or less predation from seals or fishing outside the marine reserve would affect the number and size of fish. What we find out from the tagging work will make the model much more realistic.”

“We went to a couple of good fishing spots – one close to the island and one further away – and used barbless hooks to catch and tag about 100 fish. It was much simpler than I thought, and working in pairs made it pretty quick, which was all good for the fish.”

Even though the chances of catching a tagged fish are small, it does happen quite often.

“Tagging fish is really easy, so the more people who are involved in the project, the more we’ll learn about the fish we have around New Zealand. I think it’s a great way to give something back to the ocean and have fun along the way.”

Tagging and measuring a young shark. 📷: Chris Paulin

How to join in

Report a tagged fish

We’re working closely with the Tindale Marine Research Charitable Trust and Fisheries New Zealand on this project. If you catch a tagged fish, please report it via the trust’s fish tag recovery form

You’ll need to:

• note the tag number
• measure its length
• note the fish species
• record your location (GPS coordinates).

If you can take a photo of it and report it on iNaturalist that would be great too.

Catching a small sea perch. 📷: Chris Paulin

Learn to tag fish yourself

We’d like to have more people out tagging fish. If you’re interested, you can come along to a training night to learn more.

Dates and times:

Waikanae Boating Club

Thursday October 3rd 2019, 7-9pm

More information

See the DOC website for more information: www.doc.govt.nz/marine-sentinel-sites

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