Anglers giving biologists vital tarpon genetic data

May 10, 2009

An angler takes a DNA scrape from the outer jaw of a tarpon. (FWC photo)
An angler takes a DNA scrape from the outer jaw of a tarpon. (FWC photo)

Anglers interested in volunteering can get free DNA kit

Anglers from across the state are helping biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and the Mote Marine Laboratory gather valuable information about tarpon. Results from the Tarpon Genetic Recapture Study yield new insight into how tarpon can survive catch-and-release angling and how tarpon move throughout Florida waters.

FWRI biologists analyze tarpon DNA samples submitted by anglers. Each sample identifies a tarpon’s genetic “fingerprint,” providing a unique and natural tag for that individual fish. Scientists compare new tarpon DNA samples with cataloged samples to determine if someone caught and sampled the tarpon previously.

Using DNA as a tag is a cost-effective, less-invasive way to identify individual tarpon. Because a genetic code never changes, it is a permanent way to identify fish; conventional tags tend to break or dislodge.

So far, anglers have provided more than 3,000 DNA samples. Biologists have recorded 23 recaptured tarpon from locations across the state, including Miami, the Florida Keys, Fort Myers, Boca Grande, Sarasota, Tampa Bay and the Indian River Lagoon. Biologists welcome samples from tarpon caught regardless of capture location or fish size.

Anglers who would like to participate in this study can obtain a free, easy-to-use tarpon DNA sampling kit by e-mailing or by calling 800-367-4461.

Biologists will send participating anglers an annual newsletter with updates on the Tarpon Genetic Recapture Study. Anglers will also receive additional information about specific fish they caught as it becomes available.

Anglers who submit a tarpon DNA sample to this program are entered into random drawings for various prizes.

For more information on the Tarpon Genetic Recapture Study, visit  For more information, contact:  Carli Segelson, 727-896-8626