The fish that can tell Newfoundland and Labrador researchers a story

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Data from tagged cod reveals migration, spawning and feeding patterns

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The satellite tags placed on the cod were programmed to stay on the fish for up to one year, then release themselves, pop to the surface and automatically transfer their stored data to ARGOS satellites and then back to the CFER lab.

While a few of the tagged cod have been caught by fishermen, many of the tags used in 2012 are now starting to come to the surface, where the stored information can be gathered and analyzed by researchers at the CFER.

One of the tags used in 2012 popped to the surface May 30 and is now transmitting a full year of data via satellite.

“The information we are obtaining from Cod 017 is telling us about a cod’s migration and where and when they are spawning and feeding,” Rose said. “For example, we know that Cod 017 travelled long distances from the offshore to inshore and was up to 150 metres off the bottom at times.

“Cod 017 migrated almost 200 miles inshore, and from the information we’ve gathered, we’re getting the extent and timing of the migration, which is really critical to fisheries surveys and management because surveys are run under the assumption that all the fish are in the survey area at a certain time of the year.

“We now suspect that this may not always be the case at all, as things are changing with the changes in ocean climate.”

The tags were also placed on cod on the Flemish Cap in 2012 and, according to Rose, the researchers now have information on where the “mother” fish in this area go throughout the year, where they spawn, what water temperatures they’re seeking and how that’s affecting their growth, and where they are feeding.

The remaining fish tagged in 2012 are expected to report in by satellite in the spring of this year.

Given the success of Cod 017, the data the others will provide is almost certain to further unlock some of the secrets of cod movements that have come to light.

All of this tagged information will keep scientists at the CFER busy over the coming years as they start to gather information from the 2012 tagging program. The program continued this year and saw more cod tagged than in 2012.

“We tagged almost twice as many fish in 2013 as we did in 2012, so this project is going to provide us with some invaluable information on cod in the coming years,” Rose said.

Both Rose and Rowe are particularly interested in getting tags and fish back that are caught by fishermen this year.

There is a $500 reward for tags returned in good order with the fish (frozen would be best). The fish and tag will be picked up anywhere on the island by the CFER staff.

The Coaster

Organizations: CFER, Marine Institute, Fisheries Ecosystems Research

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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