Friday, October 12, 2012

The Shogun Returns

The Shogun team collecting bluefin moved into the second half of the trip focused on tagging bluefin and collecting bluefin and yellowfin tuna. They searched the ocean on the US side of the border and moved back and forth between the waters south of San Clemente Island and Mexican waters. During the day they connected with a large school of bluefin tuna that Captains Aaron and Cole were able to put the team on. Once there tagging commenced and approximately 30 fish were released. A new load of bluefin was collected with fish that were just ranged from 14-25 lbs. 40-50 lb fish were also mixed with the school. It was a great day of fishing, and an enthusiastic crew working together with the scientists managed to get all the tags out- and collect a load of fish for scientific study.

-Dr. Barbara Block

Ted Dunn owner of Shogun, Dr. Block and Chuck Farwell enjoying sunset on Shogun after a super day of tagging and collecting bluefin In October off the waters of San Diego! 

We could have tagged. 100 if we had only had tags!

The Shogun back in San Diego
Alex prepares to move bluefin from the hold

Moving fish
Bluefin swimming in the pool
The movers and the shakers - Nick, Ben, John and Dane

Thursday, October 11, 2012

5 for 5

Bluefin tuna circling before getting tagged

TAG Director Dr. George Shillinger, Robbie Schallert and Captain Dennis Cameron measuring a 259 cm bluefin

Dr. George Shillinger and Robbie Schallert discussing tagging operations

Guest angler Keith Brander battles a bluefin tuna

Dr. Shillinger deploys an acoustic tag

Final sunset over Northumberland Strait
Team Canada, including guest angler Keith Brander and Halifax native Naomi Pleizer, had another epic day on the water...5 hooked and 5 fish left the F/V Bay Queen IV with electronic tags. The bite happened around 2 pm with all three boats (Bay Queen IV, Carrie Anne and Nicole Brandy) simultaneously hooked up. The Bay Queen IV hooked two more fish just before sunset on a flat calm day in the Northumberland Strait.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Shogun Expedition, October 7-8

The Tuna Research and Conservation Center team is on the Shogun in October this year- a bit of an unusual time for our bluefin tagging team. The trip started with an enthusiastic team of students, staff and post-docs. On board this year are Chuck and Barb, Stanford Graduate student Dane Klinger, Post-doc John Dale, Technicians, Ethan Estes and Alex North. The team on board is also composed of a trio of Stanford@SEA former undergraduates, Ethan, Laura Lilly and Nick Mendoza. Visiting scientists aboard from CICESE are Oscar, Ana and Maria from Dr. Tim Baumgartner’s and Axa Rocha lab to help in a collaborative research.  We fished to the south- and quickly got into to small spots of yellowfin tuna exactly of the right size we were looking for. This season we’re looking for fish to swim in our flume and starting out with a 15 lb tuna helps as the smaller 8-10 lb fish will occasionally turn around making the studies challenging.  We collected about 5 of this size and continued to the south. The conditions were a bit rough and never improved but the fish showed up bright and early the second day of fishing. We had a wonderful set of stops on kelps where the entire pelagic community was hanging out- with yellowtail, Mahi and yellowfin tuna. Petrels flew above and it was a super fun stop with lots of great fishing action and a loaded vessel with yellowfin. We’re heading back up the line to drop the fish off for truck transport back to the lab. We plan to collect and tag some bluefin tuna in the next few days.

-Dr. Barbara Block

Yellowfin tuna collected on the first leg of the trip

Monday, October 8, 2012

"Da Bumps"

Back on the water after another day of windy weather, we headed to a place known as “Da Bumps”, a shoaling area off Cape George, about a 1.5 hour run from Port Hood.  We started marking fish immediately, but our search was interrupted by a call from Captain Bernie Chisholm (Nicole Brandy), alerting us that he and his mates on the Nicole Brandy had a fish on!

Captain Dennis Cameron on the Bay Queen IV

Captain Dennis Cameron readies the squid rig
We stopped fishing and raced westward, in the direction of Fisherman’s Bank (see October 7 blog), to catch up with the Nicole Brandy. Approximately 45 minutes later, Captain Dennis Cameron pulled alongside the Nicole Brandy and we successfully transferred the first fish of the day to the Bay Queen IV. We opted to  deploy an acoustic tag on the 259 cm CFL fish and then quickly released her back into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. 

Tuna transfer form the Nicole Brandy to the Bay Queen IV

Craig Cameron reeling in a bluefin
Although the forecast called for diminishing winds, the winds increased steadily through the afternoon.  We headed back towards the “Da Bumps”, scanning the sea for diving gannets and steadily marking large fish.

Dr. George Shillinger and Robbie Schallert

We finally hooked up again around 5:00 p.m. but lost the fish to a pulled hook about thirty minutes later. 
Inspired by numerous marks on the scanner, registering fish from 40-60’, we opted to give the tuna one more try.  We headed back to the exact same spot where we hooked the second fish and hooked up immediately – only to lose another fish (again to a pulled hook) right at the rail.

Almost there...
That was enough fishing for October 8. We headed home, arriving back at the docks around 8:00 p.m. For now, tomorrow’s marine forecast looks very promising – winds < 10 kts…could be a great day!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Fisherman's Bank

After a lengthy stay on shore due to bad weather, the TAG team went out to Fisherman's Bank on Friday and had another very productive day. Dennis Cameron's Bay Queen IV was the tagging boat and Bernie Chisholm on the Nicole Brandy and Steve McGinnis on the Carrie Anne were the catch boats. Located near the coast of Prince Edward Island, Fisherman's Bank is a 2.5 hour trip from our home port of Port Hood, Cape Breton Island - so it was a long day as we left the harbor at 6 am and returned at 9 pm. Bluefin tuna aggregate on the bank to feed on schools of spawning herring at this time of year. After the herring complete this annual ritual, they move off the bank and so do their predators.

Dennis Cameron aboard the Bay Queen IV.
Bernie Chisholm aboard the Nicole Brandy.
Steve McGinnis aboard the Carrie Anne.
Troy Cameron fights a bluefin on the tagging boat.
Winds were light and it was a beautiful day. Four large fish (273-284 cm) were tagged with both a mini-PAT and an acoustic tag and a smaller fish (218 cm) was tagged with just an acoustic tag.

Dr Steve Wilson attaches electronic tags to a 284 cm giant Atlantic bluefin tuna.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hot Bite

Captain Steve McInnis and Captain Bernie Chisolm pass off  a tuna to the tagging boat
Lloyd McInnis fights a tuna while Pilot Whales swim past
Pilot Whale visits the tagging boat
Dr. Mike Stokesbury eye-to-eye with a bluefin tuna

Captain Dennis Cameron irrigates a bluefin tuna

Bluefin tuna  slides out the door with a pop-up and acoustic tag

After some bad weather, the TAG team hit the water and found the bluefin biting all day...the F/V Carrie Anne was hooked up before the tagging boat even got to the fishing grounds. It stayed hot all day with multiple hook-ups aboard both vessels...we will give it another try tomorrow!!

Friday, September 28, 2012

An Angler’s Perspective – Nova Scotia, Canada

Here is an angler's perspective from TAG supporter and bluefin enthusiast, Keith Brandner (Tenafly, New Jersey) regarding his recent experience angling for giant bluefin in Nova Scotia, Canada.

An Angler’s Perspective – Nova Scotia, Canada
I recently spent three days up in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, trying to catch a giant bluefin tuna. I had never been in Canada, let alone off in a remote town in Nova Scotia, so I had no idea what to expect.  All I had to base it off of was the volumes of stories from Zane Grey from back in the 70s, magazine articles, and the crazy reports from the captain. I cannot even express how many text messages and emails I received saying: “Hammered ‘em again today, buddy! After we released our fish we sat there and just hand fed them for the rest day…Man it doesn’t get old!” Needless to say, I was very excited.
Figure 1: tuna under the boat!
The ride out to the fishing grounds does not give much chance for the anticipation to build. As a Northeast canyon fisherman, I am used to 3+ hour motors out to the fishing grounds, so when the engines stopped just 15 minutes after they had roared to life, I could not help wonder if something was wrong. But nothing was wrong. In fact, everything was perfect! My nervousness about whether the fish had left between the captain’s last trip and this did not last very long – after about 30 seconds of throwing chunked-up herring into the wind-chopped, green water, a flash from below signaled that they had arrived.
I will remember my first glimpse of a giant bluefin tuna for the rest of my life. After years of hearing that these fish were “the size of a Volkswagen,” I learn that it is not an exaggeration. The flash from below, though moving very fast, was impossible to miss. The massive tuna, circling underneath the boat, was taking swipes at the herring chunks we were tossing overboard and slowing moving up the water column until it was crushing the chunks as they hit the surface of the water. It was an incredible sight.
Figure 2: The author fighting a tuna as the sun goes down!
When the captain finally asked if I was ready to catch one, it almost caught me off-guard. I was having so much fun just watching these fish swim, eating our bait next to the boat, that the thought of leaving it behind was almost sad. After a few more tosses, we decided it was time.
Figure 3: What an incredible fish!
It only took a few seconds before one of the huge fish took the bait and promptly took half of the spool with it.  Even 60 pounds of drag could not tame this fish. After about 45 minutes of battle, the fish finally rolled next to the boat. I found that one really cannot appreciate the truly incredible size of these fish until one gets to see them boat-side, clear as day. I could not believe it – I put my hand on the gill plate of the fish and found that my hand was just larger than the eye of the fish. 

Figure 4: I guess he's ready to go!
After some photos, the fish gave a strong kick to let us know that he was ready to be released. As it swam away, I could not help but wonder what was next for it. Would it continue feeding on the bank, or would it begin its journey down to the Gulf of Mexico to begin breeding? Or would it make the transatlantic journey to the Mediterranean Sea? I guess it is the wonder, intrigue, and amazement that keeps us coming back day after day and year after year. The next few days were just as good as the first. The fish continued to put on a show and just like the captain had said, it never got old. I cannot wait to go back again next year!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

5 Bluefin Tagged on Day 2

Dr. Steve Wilson tags another giant bluefin in Canada's Gulf of St. Lawrence.
On Canada 2012's 2nd day on the water, we met a Canadian film crew out on Fishermen's Bank and they came aboard to document our tagging work. With 3 boat's fishing, it only took less than an hour before the F/V Nicole Brandy had hooked-up. Another was caught at lunchtime and 3 more were hooked late in the day alongside a herring boat hauling its net. The fish ranged in size from 222 to 283 cm. As we started heading back to Port Hood, sea conditions began to deteriorate and we would be kept ashore for several days.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Canada 2012

Dr. Steve Wilson inserts a Wildlife Computer mini-pat, while Captain Dennis Cameron irrigates the bluefin tuna's gills

The TAG-A-Giant team has descended on Cape Breton for the 2012 tagging season. The F/V Carrie Anne caught the first fish on Fisherman's Bank...a ~900lb bluefin. Dr. Steve Wilson and Dr. Mike Stokesbury quickly went to work inserting a satellite pop-up tag and an acoustic tag...the whole process from hook-up to release took under 22 minutes. We are heading back out tomorrow and look forward to a successful year!!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Salmon Shark Start

View from our Era flight from Anchorage to Cordova
Aerial view of a glacier

The shark team has descended on Cordova, Alaska to see if they can locate and tag Salmon Sharks...a warm-blooded cousin of the Great White which migrates over vast swaths of ocean. The team is led by Aaron Carlisle and his band of Stanford Shark researchers...Dr. Taylor Chapple, Dr. Adrian Gleiss, and Robert Schallert. It is truly amazing here in the Last Frontier...glaciers, mountains, animals and wonderful people. We leave bright and early aboard Alaska Fish and Game's R/V Pandalus...hopefully with good news to report in a couple days!!

Cordova Harbor at 9PM

R/V Pandalus

Sheridan Glacier

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Stanford marine biologist Barbara Block wins Rolex Award for Enterprise

Stanford marine biologist Barbara Block wins Rolex Award for Enterprise

June 13th, 2012
Barbara Block
BARBARA BLOCK, the Charles & Elizabeth Prothro Professor in Marine Sciences at at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station, has been awarded a Rolex Award for Enterprise for her plan to monitor large predators off the coast of California. The biennial awards “foster a spirit of enterprise and advance human knowledge and well-being.”
The award comes with a prize equivalent to approximately $104,000.
For more than two decades, Block has led a cadre of scientists from around the world in two large-scale tagging programs in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, monitoring a menagerie of marine animals, including bluefin tunas and white sharks, while serving as an advocate for ocean conservation.
Block and her colleagues have pioneered the use of electronic tags, including implantable archival tags, which are surgically implanted in tunas, and pop-up satellite archival tags, which automatically detach from animals and transmit collected data via satellite.
Building on the tags’ success, Block and collaborators also launched the Tagging of Pacific Predators(TOPP) program, now in its 12th year. The TOPP team deployed more than 4,600 electronic tags on a variety of species in the North Pacific and collected nearly 300,000 days of animal tracking data, revealing previously unknown marine hotspots, migratory highways and details of ocean physics.
One of TOPP’s most remarkable findings was that large predators from areas as diverse as the waters off New Zealand, Indonesia and Alaska congregate in the California Current – a productive, cold oceanic current that flows along North America’s west coast from Canada to Baja. Although they may make journeys of thousands of miles into the Pacific basin, they return to the California Current repeatedly, year after year. Block has labeled the almost pristine environment “a blue Serengeti.”
“It’s bursting with predators,” said Block, “and it’s right in our own backyard.”
With the Rolex Award, Block and the TOPP research team will be able to move forward with plans to protect and monitor these areas by building “predator caf├ęs” – acoustic observatories of predator hotspots.
Rather than using satellite-based tags to follow these animals throughout their entire Pacific journeys, Block now hopes to use longer lasting and less expensive acoustic tags. A network of receivers that communicate with satellite and cell networks, both fixed at hotspots and attached to unmanned Wave Glider vehicles, will allow researchers to track predators this summer and fall in real time from Point Lobos to Tomales Point. She hopes to extend this ocean observing network down the west coast of North America.
Block’s team is also building a website and mobile app that will provide real-time updates on predator movements to the general public, using 12 years of tracking data to tell the animals’ full stories.
“We hope to connect the public to the predators,” said Block.
Ultimately, the goal of the monitoring project will be to increase protection for these rich predator regions. Block and her colleagues suggested designating the hotspot regions of the California Current a UNESCO World Heritage Site in a recent paper in the journal Nature.
“When large predators are being eliminated in other regions of the ocean, it’s important that we do all we can to protect and ensure the future of this remarkable ecosystem off our coast,” Block said. “Thus far, it’s remained stable despite exploitation and climate perturbations. Understanding why could teach us a lot about the ocean portion of this planet.”

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dr. Block receives Ocean Stewardship Award at South Carolina Aquarium Annual Gala

 April 28, 2012

Every spring, the South Carolina Aquarium and the conservation-focused residents of South Carolina gather together to demonstrate their commitment to preserving and protecting the beauty of the natural world.  This year's celebration honored the Aquarium’s mission and celebrates the opening of the Aquarium's largest changing exhibit. 

The night – ‘An Evening in Madagascar‘ – was remarkable, attended by over 450 conservation minded Carolinians! The event was organized to leave guests feeling they have traveled to the island and back in a night. Showcasing how maintaining biodiversity here, and in places like Madagascar, remains a core conservation effort for the South Carolina Aquarium, the evening included cocktails, seated dinner, presentation of the Environmental Stewardship Award, theatrical performances and a 9:00 p.m. ‘After Affair’ inside the Aquarium.

Every year the Aquarium gives an Ocean Stewardship award.  The Aquarium presented the Ocean Stewardship Award to Sylvia Earle during 2011 and to Vice President Gore in 2010.  This year the Aquarium recognized TAG’s very own Dr. Barbara Block for her achievements in ocean conservation through her work for Tag-A-Giant, the Tuna Research and Conservation Center, the Tagging of Pacific Predators program, and Stanford University.

Dr. Block was introduced to this great conservation crowd by TAG Board member, Mr. John Hill (pictured below with his wife, Marilynn, and Dr. Barbara Block.  John is a long-time supporter of TAG’s bluefin research efforts, and a passionate champion for bluefin conservation.  It was a wonderful evening and a great honor for Dr. Barbara Block and TAG to be recognized Environmental Stewardship Award.

Dr. Barbara Block (left) with John and Marilynn Hill at the South Carolina Aquarium 2012 Annual Gala - 'An Evening in Madagascar'.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Reelin' for Research

TAG-A-Giant is proud to donate a scientific fishing charter to the winner of the Reelin' for Research Tournament ( on May 5th in Morehead City, North Carolina. This is a wonderful tournament that benefits the North Carolina Children's Hospital...join us in the “fight” to “land” a cure for kids!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Superfish: Bluefin Tuna

Tag-A-Giant invites you to watch the world premiere of the film, ‘Superfish: Bluefin Tuna’, airing on Thursday, April 12 @ 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel.

The Atlantic bluefin tuna is a giant among fish.  Capable of weighing 1,500 pounds, reaching 10 feet in length and swimming up to 50 miles per hour in their travels across the Atlantic Ocean basin, the Atlantic bluefin is one of the largest, fastest and strongest fish in the sea.  Because of their power and beauty, wild bluefin tuna have always been a highly sought-after but elusive quarry for filmmakers.  Few have filmed them in the wild.  

For marine biologist and wildlife cameraman Rick Rosenthal, documenting this giant fish became the ultimate challenge.  Working with support from the Tag-A-Giant Fund, Rick launched this heroic effort back in 2009 – and his work is coming to fruition this week.  In the new one-hour world premiere special ‘Superfish: Bluefin Tuna’, Rosenthal shares the secrets of the legendary bluefin tuna, while documenting its place in the grand scheme of the vast marine ecosystem.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cachalot app

Here is a short clip we made for Duke University’s Cachalot app, a novel digital textbook designed for students enrolled in Duke’s Marine Megafauna class, but free for everyone, everywhere...check it out at your app store. The video was shot by Robbie Schallert aboard the Bay Queen IV while tagging bluefin off the coast of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

That's a wrap!

Capt. Dale Britt calls an end to the 2012 season

Tancred Miller and Kelly O'Neal smile after reeling in a bluefin

Corrie Curtice fights a bluefin while Kelly O'Neal and commercial fisherman David Schalit look on

Danny Coffey practices liphooking on a yellowfin tuna under Alan Scibal's and Robert Schallert's tutelage

Team TAG-A-Giant on board the F/V Sensation (picture by Danielle Waples)

The 2012 North Carolina tagging season has come to a successful conclusion. After 10 days on the water, TAG placed 25 archival tags and 1 conventional tag in 26 bluefin tuna! The weather for the last week was incredible...warm, flat, and fishy! The Gulf Stream was teaming with life...a constant reminder as to why we do what we do! We had fantastic support from local fisherman in both Hatteras and Oregon Inlet, and the Sensation always had an eager angler ready to get in the chair!

It took a phenomenal effort on behalf of the entire team. Capt. Dale Britt and Mate Alan Scibal were extraordinary once again...working tireless days in search of fish. Dr. Andre Boustany led the team for most of the trip repeatedly trying to pass the reins, although it is unclear if he was trying to empower or permanently delegate. There are numerous scientists who worked long hours back at Stanford University programming tags, writing grants, packing, shipping and supporting the tagging operation...many thanks to Dr. Barbara Block, Dr. Steve Wilson, Michael Castleton, and Dr. Randy Kochevar...Monterey Bay Aquarium technician, Danny Coffey, was once again invaluable both in the lab and field. Special thanks to our director, Dr. George Shillinger, who allowed the team to exceed budget and expectations.

We look forward to seeing everyone again for North Carolina 2013...or on the next tagging adventure! If you are interested in joining TAG in the field or joining our mailing list, contact us at