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Marine Ecology and Stock Assessment Program

Sablefish Tag Program: Tag Release and Recoveries, 2011

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The ABL Marine Ecology and Stock Assessment (MESA) program continued the processing of sablefish, Anoplopoma fimbria, tag recoveries and administration of the tag reward program and Sablefish Tag Database during 2011. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)  has been tagging and releasing sablefish in Alaska waters since 1972.  Since that time, over 350,000 anchor tags and archival tags have been released, of which more than 30,000 have been recovered.  A total 653 sablefish tags were recovered in 2011.  Eighteen percent of the recovered tags in 2011 were at liberty for over 14 years, and 10 percent of the total 2011 recoveries were recovered over 1,000 nautical miles (nmi) (great circle distance) from their release location. The fish at liberty the longest was for 34 years, and the greatest distance traveled by a tagged sablefish recovered in 2011 was 1,731 nmi.  This fish was tagged with an archival tag near Umnak Island in the Western Gulf of Alaska in 1998 and recovered off of the Washington coast. Data from recovered tagged fish help provide information on the movement and growth of the fish. Eight sablefish tagged with archival tags were recovered in 2011.  Data from these electronic archival tags provide information on the depth and temperature experienced by the fish. 

Tags from shortspine thornyheads, Sebastolobus alascanus, Greenland turbot, Reinhardtius hippoglossoides, Pacific sleeper sharks, Somniosus pacificus, lingcod, Ophiodon elongates, spiny dogfish,Squalus suckleyi, and tagged sablefish released of off the West Coast are also maintained in the Sablefish Tag Database.  Fourteen thornyheads, three archival turbot tags, and three archival lingcod tags were recovered in 2011.  These are the first lingcod recoveries since the start of lingcod tagging in 2007.

Releases of tagged fish in 2011 totaled 5,183 adult sablefish (including six with archival tags and five with pop-up satellite tags); 948 juvenile sablefish (including 125 with archival tags); 910 shortspine thornyheads; 45 spiny dogfish with pop-up satellite tags; 32 lingcod with archival tags; and 68 Greenland turbot (including 29 with archival tags).  Potential recoveries from these tagged fish will provide invaluable information on movement, growth, and behavior of the fish.

For more information on the NMFS Sablefish Tagging program, please visit our web page at

By Katy Echave


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