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New Fish Tagging Project

The NAFC Marine Centre UHI will be tagging more fish around Shetland this summer under a new project funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

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A tagged plaice

NAFC's fisheries scientists hope to tag several thousand more fish over the next few months, to supplement the 8,500 fish that have been tagged over the last four years. This year's project will focus particularly on tagging young fish, especially plaice and lemon sole, as well as some monks, megrim and skates and rays. The EMFF funding for this year's tagging is being provided through the Shetland Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG).

The fish for tagging will be caught using NAFC's fishing vessel Atlantia II using a specially modified trawl net fitted with a ''live-fish cod-end'. Each fish will be measured and marked with a plastic tag before being released back into the sea. Each tag bears a unique number which is recorded along with its release location, species and length. When a fisherman catches and returns a tagged fish NAFC scientists can determine how much it has grown and how far it has traveled since it was tagged, information that can contribute to the more effective management of fish stocks.

NAFC has been tagging fish annually since 2013 and the results obtained have provided valuable information on the growth and movements of fish around Shetland. Most fish tagged in previous years have been mature adults and the tag returns have shown that adult plaice are quite mobile around Shetland. In contrast, lemon sole, which grow more slowly, move much less, with most being caught within a mile or two of where they were tagged. By tagging younger fish it is hoped that this year's project will help fill in gaps in scientists' knowledge of the growth and movements of young fish which is important in understanding the structure of fish stocks and the recruitment of fish to the adult population.

Commenting on the new tagging project, Dr Chevonne Angus (Joint Head of Marine Science & Technology) said that "We really appreciate the cooperation and assistance we have had from fishermen and fish processors in returning tagged fish over the last few years and hope that they will continue to keep their eyes open for more tagged fish in the future. Work like this would be impossible without their help."

Anyone finding a tagged fish is asked to Contact NAFC or email nafc.tags@uhi.ac.uk - NAFC will pay a small reward plus the value of the fish. See full details of NAFC's fish tagging programme at www.nafc.uhi.ac.uk/fish-tagging

For further information please contact Dr Chevonne Angus.