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Bluefin Tuna Tagging Program

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LargePelagicsLogo.psdFrom May through October, juvenile Atlantic bluefin tuna abound in Massachusetts state waters. Depending on regulations set by the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Division, recreational anglers in Massachusetts are usually permitted to land one bluefin per day; all others must be released. The Large Pelagics Research Center (LPRC) encourages all recreational anglers to participate in bluefin science by measuring and tagging these fish before release.


Tag A TinyTM

Since 2006, the LPRC has been enlisting recreational anglers and charter captains to help out with tuna research by participating in its Tag A TinyTM program. In this co-operative tagging program, anglers and captains catch, measure, and release juvenile bluefin with conventional “spaghetti”-ID tags provided by The Billfish Foundation (Ft. Lauderdale, FL). These tagging efforts help LPRC researchers study the annual migration paths and habitat use of juvenile Atlantic bluefin. To date, 962 enrolled recreational fishermen have tagged 1,282 fish.

New Atlantic-wide Tagging Project

In 2012, LPRC, in collaboration with NMFS and International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), will begin a new conventional tagging program that will rely even more on the participation of the recreational tuna fleet. As part of ICCAT’s Atlantic-wide Research Programme for Bluefin Tuna (GBYP), LPRC will lead the western Atlantic conventional tagging program. ICCAT scientists have set a goal of tagging 10,000+ juvenile fish of age 1-3 in the eastern Atlantic and 4,000 fish in the western Atlantic over a 3 year period. The project will enable scientists to estimate rates of current fishing mortality, total mortality, and east/west mixing, and to improve stock assessments.

Be on the look out for tags!

The GBYP project depends on the recapture and reporting of tagged fish; researchers receive little data until the tags are recovered. Fish that have been tagged both locally and in the Mediterranean Sea will likely be caught in MA waters. There will be a reward program for reported recoveries, with a proportion of the recoveries being “high reward” tags. Bluefin fishermen should be on the lookout for brightly colored tags placed at the base of the second dorsal fin. If a tagged fish is caught, anglers should accurately measure the lower jaw curved fork length of the fish and record the tag number (or numbers – some fish will carry 2 tags), location and date of catch, and contact LPRC immediately with the information.

Look for news on the types and levels of rewards to be offered for reported tags. LPRC will feature these reward details in the next few months on its website ( and Facebook page (search Facebook for “Large Pelagics Research Center”).

About Us

The Large Pelagic Research Center (LRPC) of UMass Amherst is located at the UMass Marine Station in Gloucester, MA. Directed by Dr. Molly Lutcavage, LPRC is part of the UMass Graduate School of Marine Science and the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Institute. To join the Tag A TinyTM program and help LPRC tag juvenile bluefin, please contact Emily Chandler at, 978-283-0368. To report a tag recapture, please call Emily at 757-293-8906 or Molly at 603-767-2129.

Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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