People that have a genuine love for science can find numerous ways to help researchers to find solutions to environmental problems. Participatory science has already led to positive changes in parts of Kenya, Sudan and Brazil. One of the most popular activities performed by the public is recreational fishing. In recent years there has been much debate regarding the environmental impacts of both commercial and recreational fishing practices. Some people argue that the decline of many species is directly related to over fishing. That said, researchers have turned to recreational anglers to help them to learn about fish growth rates and populations.
The red drum is a popular sport fish which puts up an incredible fight when hooked. They are located along the eastern U.S. coastal regions, as well as areas of the Texas Panhandle and Louisiana. Fishermen from North and South Carolina, Florida and other states have been participating in a red drum study for many years. Anglers have been a part of participatory science because it allows them to collect data while doing one of their favorite activities. They also realize that their findings can help to preserve the sport for new anglers who use the water in the future.
Participatory angling scientists use a tagging system to determine the overall health of a population of fish. Basically, a fisherman will insert a tag into a fish once it is caught legally by rod and reel. The tags are small and unobtrusive, and they are usually colored a bright yellow or red. These tags must be bright so that fishermen notice them when they catch a fish that has been tagged by someone else. Most of the tags are administered behind the dorsal fin right underneath the skin, without harming the health of the fish. Red drum of various sizes are tagged this way.
When a fisherman catches a tagged drum, he or she writes down the tag number in a log book. Once they have completed their fishing trip, they can access an online database to find out more information about the fish that they caught. Some people recommend the removal of the tag to ensure that you enter the number correctly. Amazingly, these tags give a great indication of how quickly a fish grows during a given span of time, as well as migration patterns. Some fish that were caught a year or two earlier show incredible growth rates.
As a result of this participatory science, slot limits were instituted to protect the species. Red drum are considered to be excellent for eating, so researchers felt that it was important to create a size limit for them. Tagging results helped researchers come to the conclusion that the slot limit for red drum should be 18 to 27 inches. This limit protects juvenile fish which fall under 18 inches, while allowing adult fish over 27 inches to remain healthy to spawn, thus promoting population growth of the species.