Volunteer anglers in northern Florida are encouraged to catch and collect a DNA sample from every tarpon they catch that is 30 inches or longer. Since 2006, scientists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) have partnered with Mote Marine Laboratory to use DNA fingerprinting as a way to track the movements, habits and recapture rates of Atlantic tarpon in coastal and inshore waters.
Anglers can collect a DNA sample by scraping the outer jaw of the tarpon with a small, abrasive sponge. Immediately after collecting the DNA sample, the sponge should be placed in the pre-labeled vial. DNA vials can be mailed to FWRI with the accompanying data slip so that geneticists can analyze and compare the DNA sample with cataloged samples to determine if someone caught and sampled the tarpon previously. This recapture information provides evidence of long-term survival and insight into the seasonal and regional movements of individual fish.
All samples will still be accepted. Just remember that tarpon more than 40 inches fork length must remain in the water throughout the capture, sampling and release process. Anglers who would like to participate in this study can obtain a free, easy-to-use tarpon DNA sampling kit by emailing TarponGenetics@MyFWC.com or by calling 800-367-4461.