The Future of the Dolphinfish Research Program

By Don Hammond

I have to say that I have never given thought to writing a newsletter like this one. Time has flown by. Do you realize that this study has completed 17 years? Eleven and a half years have been as a private research program, funded solely by private donations, a concept that many scientific researchers said would never work. But it did work and it worked very well, as shown by the study’s amazing achievements. It has roughed out the migration routes of dolphinfish in the western North Atlantic Ocean. It is the first research program to document the migration route of dolphinfish in any ocean.  The program’s success was achieved only through the efforts of more than 1,300 privately owned vessels, and more than 2,700 fishermen who either tagged or recaptured fish, as well as several hundred fishermen, clubs, foundations, organizations, and businesses that provided the funding that allowed this program to operate. Their efforts resulted in more than 21,000 dolphin tagged and 550 tagged fish reported recovered. This is an outstanding accomplishment

There were three primary goals originally set for this study: identify migration routes, begin documenting the natural behavior of the animal, and stimulate addition research on dolphinfish. I am proud to say that all of these goals have been met.  The program continually found that once it answered one question, it often led to another question to be answered.  There is always more research that is needed.   In today’s world of science with its ever-evolving high technological tools, I find myself feeling dated, like a transistor radio. While I marvel at what these high tech tools can accomplish, I am lost at understanding how they operate.  But, one of my colleagues who I have worked with for six years has an insatiable appetite for technology and new methods of analyzing data, and that is Wessley Merten. I have been working with Wess since 2011 when he began work on his Ph.D. in marine sciences at the University of Puerto Rico. I have joined with him in publishing five papers about dolphinfish that appeared in peer reviewed scientific journals.

You have probably already guessed that I am announcing my retirement as director of the Dolphinfish Research Program. Dr. Merten will assume operation of the Dolphinfish Research Program beginning January 1, 2018. In preparation for becoming the lead on the program, he has founded a 501 (c) (3) organization, Beyond Our Shores, Inc., to provide financial, accounting, marketing, and Beyond Our Shoresscientific support for the Dolphinfish Research Program.  I will be serving on the Board of Directors, along with 6 other individuals who have been integral in the success of the DRP through the years.  In my role on the Board, I will be consulting on projects and providing advice and assistance where needed.  I will also continue to conduct my local research on the recreational dolphin harvest at Ripley Light Marina and Yacht Club in 2018, as well as other site-specific research that may develop. Concurrently, Wess and I along with other scientists, plan to carry out more detailed analyses of the vast volumes of data that have already been collected; Results from this work will be included as articles in newsletters and other forms of communication that will be managed and produced by Beyond Our Shores, Inc.

All aspects of the Dolphinfish Research Program will remain under my supervision through December 31, 2017. Any tags that you have on hand at the end of 2017 will still be good to use in the future. Participating anglers should continue to contact Don Hammond using the same contact information as in the past.

Even with the recent increase in abundance of the young-of-the-year fish, I am concerned about the health of the western North Atlantic dolphinfish stock. I urge all of the anglers who are currently tagging fish and those individuals, clubs, businesses and foundations who have provided financial support to the DRP to continue their involvement with the program in the future. Now, the program is going to be supported by the direction of a Board of Directors, along with a team of scientists and anyone dedicated to the study and conservation of dolphinfish, associated species, and impacted economies.

Watch the message below from Don Hammond regarding the future of the Dolphinfish Research Program.

If you are a recreational or commercial fisherman we open your participation by becoming a registered tagger or by simply spreading the word about the program and the importance of reporting recaptures.  You can register to tag, to communicate with the program, or receive our newsletter and study updates by clicking here.