The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resources Division initiated the Marine Sportfish Carcass Recovery Project in fall of 1997. This project takes advantage of the fishing efforts of hundreds of anglers by turning filleted fish carcasses that anglers would normally discard into a source of much needed data on Georgia’s marine sportfish. The project is a true partnership of saltwater anglers, marine businesses, conservation groups, and the Coastal Resources Division. The Georgia Power Foundation has been instrumental in providing supplemental funding for this project.
The information provided by fish carcasses is used in a variety of analyses, all of which help biologists and managers better understand the status of Georgia’s coastal fish populations. These data can be used in a descriptive manner to examine trends in the size and age structure of a population such as tracking changes in the average size of spotted seatrout over time. Often times the data from fish carcasses are used in very sophisticated analyses such as the coastal stock assessment for Atlantic coast red drum in which length and age information collected from donated red drum carcasses are used by stock assessment scientists with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Chest freezers are placed near fish cleaning stations at both public access locations, marinas, as well as private community docks along the Georgia coast. Each freezer is marked with an identifying sign and a list of target fish species. Cooperating anglers can place the filleted carcasses, with head and tail intact, in a bag, drop in a completed angler information card, and then place the bag in the freezer. Each fish is identified to species, the fish length is measured, sex is determined, and the otoliths are removed. The otoliths are then used to age the fish. Nearly 2,000 unique anglers have donated more than 65,000 fish carcasses since the project began.
Can’t find a carcass freezer close enough to you? Encourage your local marina to participate! Marinas and fishing clubs who would like to host one of our freezers should contact Michael Mock or Ryan Harrell at 912-264-7218.