Exciting Albie Project Tagging Updates

Christmas has arrived early for Albie lovers on the east coast.

If you’ve followed along with The Albie Project, you will be just as excited as we were when we first heard this news. If you’re not familiar with the campaign: this fall, in collaboration with the New England Aquarium, we were able to deploy 63 acoustic tags into false albacore throughout Nantucket Sound.

We’ll admit that we had some big fears going into our first year of tagging false albacore. We heard the doubters critiquing from the shadows:

“They bleed everywhere; most of those fish die when they’re caught anyways. These fish will too!”

“A tag that size is going to impede a fast-swimming fish’s movement. This project won’t work!”

We knew we were taking on some risk, stepping into an arena yet to be entered by the science and angling communities, putting community and sponsor trust (and significant financial support) on the line.

So when we received an email from Dr. Jeff Kneebone last week that was busting at the seams with data, our jaws dropped. This overwhelming rush of joy was akin to hearing all your lucky numbers called out for the Powerball lottery. The tagging effort worked – even better than we could’ve ever imagined.

An externally-tagged false albacore landed with Capt. Diogo Godoi in the fall of 2022.

57 of the 63 (90.5%) tagged fish pinged across multiple receivers in the array. Remember, Nantucket Sound was chosen as the initial location for the pilot tagging program due to the complex array of receivers distributed throughout the zone, spreading from Chatham to the islands’ North side, along Hyannis and further west. While many receivers are set up in the area, that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily side-by-side along a single channel. Some gaps extend miles between receivers depending on your location and direction of travel in the zone.

The tags used for this initial study ping every minute. The fact that we recorded so many fish multiple times across different receivers shows how rapid and active these fish are – moving around the sound consistently at a serious pace. Even with an intentional dispersion of tagging locations through the sound, little tunny covered all corners of the receiver array, pinging hundreds of times across dozens of receivers in just a couple of weeks. Talk about energizer bunnies with a bad case of wanderlust.

What did we learn? These fish move around – a lot. Most importantly, we checked a major box: false albacore can survive the tag and release process – and they did so at an impressive rate, over 90%!

So, now what? These particular tags sport a battery life of 350 days. Through a collaborative data-sharing network, we will eagerly await as other array networks down the coast download their data, hoping to gain more insight into the winter travel plans of our tagged fish.

The final stages of an internal tag deployment.

We are incredibly excited to announce our plans to continue #TheAlbieProject in 2023! We have many people to thank, and we’ll ensure they receive their moment in the spotlight in the coming months. In 2023, we’re going to keep a strong focus on post-release mortality, adding accelerometers that will provide us an increased level of confidence that recorded data is in fact a healthy, roaming albie – not a sandbar shark with a full belly. Next year albies won’t receive the same pampered treatment as this year’s fish, which we hope will provide a more realistic post-release mortality estimate.

Will our tagged fish head south for the winter? If so, how far south? Will any return to their tagging site the following season? We’re eagerly awaiting more data and hope you are too.

For a full breakdown of Albie Project’s initial data and future plans for the study from lead scientist Dr. Jeff Kneebone, head to the latest Guide Post podcast episode (#92), which is now live on Spotify, Apple and Google Podcasts. You can find the full episode at linktr.ee/asga or by clicking here.

The driving motivation behind the Albie Project is to better understand this fishery and protect it for generations to come. Management will play a massive role in safeguarding this future, and we have more good news on that front as well. Stay tuned for our next blog from our policy team in the coming days.

Long live little tunny. #TheAlbieProject

~~~~~~~~~

Join the Albie Tag Team and support ASGA’s efforts to learn more about and protect false albacore for generations to come. This sponsorship supports one of the acoustic telemetry tags currently swimming along the east coast attached to little tunny – deployed by ASGA in partnership with the New England Aquarium this fall. All Tag Teams sponsors will receive an exclusive Albie Project “Tag Team” hooded tech shirt produced by SIMMS.

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