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 prelabeled 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.
As of today, biologist have catalogued more than 22,060 samples and identified 217 recaptured tarpon.
“Remember, even if you catch only one tarpon all year, collecting that single DNA sample can help advance our understanding of tarpon,” said FWRI research scientist Kathy Guindon. “We have received the majority of our samples from southern Florida, and we want to encourage our northern anglers to submit more samples,” Guindon explained.
Biologists are grateful for the ongoing support of volunteer anglers and look forward to continued help from these citizen scientists to make 2014 a banner year for tarpon samples received from our north Florida waters. Anglers in south Florida should continue to use up their supplies on fish over 30 inches.
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
or by calling 800-367-4461.
Participants will receive an annual newsletter with updates on the recapture study and will receive information about the specific fish they caught as it becomes available.
There is also an end-of-year raffle for those volunteers who have returned a sample.
For more information on the Tarpon Genetic Recapture Study or to watch a video demonstration of how to genetically sample your tarpon, visit this FWC link: MyFWC.com/Research/Saltwater/Tarpon/Genetics/