Bagged, tagged and returned for research | savannahnow.com
Pity the yellow-lipped fish that researchers are catching, tagging and releasing on Gray’s Reef this month.
First, they get hooked and hauled aboard a ship. Scientists then poke the groupers, some as old as 20 years, with a hypodermic needle to deflate their gas bladders, which give them buoyancy.
After a day or so of rest, the fish undergo a brief surgery to insert a transmitter the size of a AAA battery in their abdomens. Finally, an external tag is punched through the base of the fin on their backs. Only then, when they’re visually identifiable and able to send out data on their whereabouts to curious scientists, are they plopped overboard to resume life on their limestone ledges undersea.
“When I think what these fish are going through, I think alien abductions,” said Greg McFall, the research coordinator for Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, an underwater treasure located about 17 miles east of Sapelo Island. “The other fish are never gonna believe it when they go back and retell this story.”