I have heard stories from fellow fishermen about the number of fish they used to catch in one day and how it was the best fishing they’d ever experienced. Double-digit days were the norm and record-sized fish were hitting the scales. I wish this was still true today, but unfortunately, most fishermen these days can’t relate to those stories. Due to a variety of factors, including over-harvesting, recent changes in climate and increased interest in the sport, the populations of most popular sport fish are dwindling. Luckily for my generation and future generations, barcodes are saving the day.
No matter the species, the current state of most fish populations has forced conservationists to take alternative approaches to preserving sport fish in fisheries. Although they have tagged fish for years, the tagging techniques that were once utilized produced varied results and the ability to collect data wasn’t in the advanced state that it is today.
The corner was turned years ago when stocking programs began tagging yearling fish before they were released. These tags were a starting point to track various species from the time they left the streams until the day they came back to the same place to spawn and die.
The major advancement came with the implementation of a barcode on every tag. Currently, each barcode includes a unique number signature. After being scanned, the number signature enables the traceability of migration, population, growth, spawning areas, foraging areas and natural mortality. Pretty cool use of technology, isn’t it?
The data collected continues to provide conservationists with vital information necessary in determining future stocking levels, daily limits and length of fishing seasons. I firmly believe that without the implementation of a barcode, a good amount of our fisheries would have been jeopardized.
It’s amazing what one little barcode can do for so many people – and fish!