Texas anglers could reel in $250 by catching specially tagged Red Snapper
By: Marcy de Luna
In time for red snapper season this summer in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists plan to tag 3,000 to 5,000 fish with $250 tags during April and May, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Some fish will even carry two tags for a total value of $500 to help scientists learn how many of the tags fall out.
The rewards are part of a $12 million study called the "Great Red Snapper Count." It was designed to check the accuracy of federal red snapper figures, such as estimates of how many red snappers live in the Gulf. It also involves visual counts, habitat surveys, and other studies.
Anglers should look for a tubular tag, about 4 to 5 inches long, with the words, "Reward $250. Keep tag." Each features a yellow plastic insert with a five-digit tag number starting with the letters RS as well as a phone number to call.
To collect the reward, fisherman will need to report the tag number, plus the fishing port from which they departed, the date the fish was caught, the fish's length and weight, and the latitude and longitude where it was caught, reports the Star-Telegram.
The tag itself should be mailed in, though the researchers may accept photographs, the Star-Telegram reports. Once the tag has been snipped, the fish can be released.
Red snapper numbers reportedly plummeted from the 1960s to late 1980s due to overfishing and incidental catch in shrimp trawls. Those numbers rebounded when federal regulation of the catch began in 1990. However, in recent years the recreational season got shorter and shorter, with many anglers saying that federal estimates are too low and seasons too short, reports the Star-Telegram.
Scientists expect about 10 percent of the tagged fish to be caught, Greg Stunz of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, who is leading a team of 21 scientists from the five Gulf states and Virginia, told the Star-Telegram. Stunz expects to study to conclude in 2020. "We'll be wrapped up in about a year," he told the outlet.
Congress allocated $9.5 million for the red snapper study, with the universities involved contributing $2.5 million.