Mackerel and Herring Tagging

Since 2009, The Fishermen and Scientists Research Society (FSRS) has been contracted each year by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to tag mackerel and herring along the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia and off the west coast of Newfoundland.  Tagging is done to learn more about the movements of important fish stocks and has always been of particular interest to industry.

During the spring of 2009, the initial goal was for FSRS Senior Fisheries Technician, Tricia Pearo to tag up to 3000 mackerel in Nova Scotia. Unfortunately, the fishermen were experiencing low catches and the mackerel tended to be small and, therefore, tagging at this level was not feasible. A new strategy was needed and the fishermen quickly came up with a solution, suggesting that a number of individual fishermen be given tags and tagging guns and trained on how to do the tagging. They would then tag mackerel when the opportunity presented itself, either when handlining or purse seining.  Pearo and a few volunteer fishermen were able to tag over 600 mackerel from fishing vessels in the following areas in Nova Scotia: East Pubnico, Neil’s Harbour and Phillip’s Harbour.

In October, 2010, Pearo headed to Newfoundland with 5000 mackerel tags. She had the pleasure of joining Captain Chester McCarthy and crew aboard the purse seiner Gemini No.1. She showed Chester and crew how to do the tagging so that they could continue to tag after she left. Despite poor weather limiting time at sea, she was able to tag 989 mackerel. After Pearo left Newfoundland, McCarthy and crew were able to tag 1,000 mackerel. Although we did not achieve our goal of tagging 5,000, the effort was worthwhile and we were already starting to get tag returns.

In 2011, DFO received more funding to tag mackerel in Newfoundland again.  However, due to the low mackerel catches in Newfoundland that year, it was decided the tagging effort would be redirected to herring. Despite some adverse weather conditions on the water, Pearo was able to achieve her goal of tagging over 5000 herring in the middle of November.

In early December of 2012, Pearo returned to Newfoundland with 3000 tags. Since there was a lack of abundance in mackerel again, herring were tagged instead.  3000 herring were tagged in the Bonne Bay area. These herring were caught later in the Fall than the previous year, most likely due to warm water temperatures.

This tagging project would not be possible each year without the cooperation and dedicated assistance from industry.

DFO Mackerel Biologist, François Grégoire hopes that this will continue to be an on-going project and collaboration between DFO, the FSRS and the fishing industry.

Anyone finding a tag is asked to return it to the address on the tag along with the following information:

  • Date and location of capture (latitude and longitude, fishing location, etc.)
  • Method of capture
  • Name, phone number and mailing address of who found the tag so we can send them a reward.

A $10 reward will be given for each tag returned with the required information.

For additional information about the tagging project, please contact François Grégoire (DFO) at (418) 775-0589,