June 28, 2006
Tagging Fish With The American Littoral Association
It never fails to amaze me how much you can learn about something when the pursuit of knowledge is not the immediate quest. Last year, while fishing aboard a local charter boat, I was surprised to catch a fish with a yellow Littoral Society tag attached to it. I returned the tag and eventually received a reply from this fine group whose aim is to protect the marine environment to ensure that we will still have fish in our future.
When I decided to investigate the Littoral Society, I discovered a dedicated group of professionals and volunteers who provided me with additional information about my tagged fish. I had hooked a striped bass that had been released more than a year prior to the time I pulled it over the rails and it had been tagged off Orient Point. When I unknowingly recaptured it off Gardiner's Island, it measured a bit over 41 inches in length.
The society sent me an official tagged fish patch along with a brochure about volunteer fish tagging, which provides information to marine biologists about fish migration and growth rates. If you should happen to catch a fish with a yellow dorsal loop tag, the tag should be returned to the American Littoral Society along with a note. The note should include not only your name and address but also the species of fish, where and when you caught it and the length and weight.
Tape that tag and your note with the requested information and send it to the American Littoral Society, Highlands, New Jersey, 07732. In return, they will forward to you the history of your fish, a jacket patch and some incredible information about their tagging program. For those interested in becoming taggers, check out their website at www.littoralsociety.org/tag.htm. Fishing clubs and charter captains are also welcome to join.
Since a journalist is never satisfied with the basics, I found out that the word littoral is derived from the Latin word litis which means coastal or beach. The emphasis of the A.L.S. is the protection of habitats for coastal wildlife so that estuaries and tidal wetlands will continue to grow. It also aims to shelter juvenile fish and shrimp, provide nesting sites for waterfowl, help shellfish beds to produce their bounty and ensure the survival of barrier islands and their dune systems.
The group has a Northeast Chapter which publishes a newsletter called "Littorally Speaking" and is involved in beach cleanups as well as hands-on field trips for adults. The A.L.S. is a national nonprofit public-interest organization that has more than 6,000 professional and amateur naturalists with headquarters in Sandy Hook New Jersey and Broad Channel New York.
According to the website, A.L.S. "seeks to encourage a better scientific understanding of the marine environment and provide a unified voice advocating protection of the delicate fabric of life along the shore." It has been involved in the protection of coastal habitats and continues to bring people together with the sea since 1961. Because so much of the population lives in close proximity to a shoreline, marine habitats become more stressed as wildlife gets squeezed out of their homes
This past week, I walked with my two young daughters along the ocean and they screamed with delight as I used my feet to dig up sand crabs. They scurried as fast as they could to carefully return them to their watery home. Once again, I reminded them of the frailty of our island beaches and waters as well as the importance of caring for both in such a way that they would someday be around for their own future children to enjoy.
Yes, all this came to pass as the result of one yellow tag.