Saturday, April 15, 2006

Tagging dolphin's program is back

Don Hammond's Dolphin Tagging Study is back.

Because of donations from individual sports fishermen, fishing clubs and marine conservation foundations from the Florida Keys to Jackson Hole, Wyo., the important tagging study will continue.
For four years, Hammond headed the dolphin tagging project for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, and data resulting from nearly 5,000 tagged dolphin revealed some startling discoveries about the ocean pelagic.

Of particular interest were the great distances some of the fish migrated between the time they were tagged and recaptured.

Some were recovered thousands of miles from the tagging point, after moving to areas where no one dreamed fish from the Atlantic Coast would venture. One fish traveled 2,487 miles and another 1,046 miles, and those types of recaptures gave scientists new insight into possible migration routes used by the dolphinfish.

Last year Hammond retired after 35 years as a marine fisheries biologist in South Carolina. Because of budgeting problems, the state's natural resources department wasn't able to continue the project.

Hammond wanted to go forward with the study under his private direction, but he needed the public's support.

"People have made it very clear they want to see this highly successful study continue," Hammond said.

Some individuals donated as much as $3,000, and donations of $5,000 each came from the Marine Ventures Foundation based in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and the Grady White Boat Co. in Greenville, N.C. The Central Florida Offshore Anglers of Orlando was among fishing clubs donating $2,000.

Hammond has formed the Cooperative Science Services of Charleston, S.C., and in addition to his dolphin tagging study, he plans other studies using satellite tags on dolphin and cobia.
Hammond is encouraging more offshore anglers to become involved. Previous taggers such as Mark Wilson of Rockledge, who is pictured in the study's latest bulletin, are invited to continue along with new taggers.

Hammond said tags for the 2006 study will be a new color and will carry a different legend. The tags now are available, and tag applicators will be provided.

The tagging requires a little extra work and bookkeeping. For each fish tagged, information needed includes the date, GPS positions, fork length, water depth and water temperature.
Obviously, there's a great deal of satisfaction when a tagged fish is recaptured and you learn it was one of your fish.

"The 2006 study truly is a case of fisheries research by the fishermen," Hammond said. "All the field-data collection is being done by fishermen, and it is being financed by fishermen and associated industry.

"Dolphinfish are too important to the recreational industry to wait on a decline in their stock to begin collecting needed management data."

Donations can be addressed to Cooperative Science Services, 961 Anchor Road, Charleston, S.C. 29412-4902. Hammond can be contacted at, or at (843) 795-7524. The website is

For those wishing to make a tax-deductible donation, Hammond is using the financial assistance of the nonprofit Hilton Head Reef Foundation in Hilton Head, S.C., which will channel all donations into the dolphin study.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"