South Carolina anglers and nature lovers can participate in two state programs to help marine life -- one takes stock of fisheries by tagging catches and the other protects loggerhead sea turtles through a redesigned license plate.
Both programs were announced last week by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
The state Marine Resources Division's volunteer tagging program has been re-launched with the hopes of introducing a new generation of anglers to tagging and releasing game fish, according to a DNR news release.
Anglers who wish to participate in the tagging program must have a South Carolina saltwater recreational fishing license and have purchased the appropriate tag gun used for inserting tags into game fish.
DNR officials say the program, started in 1974, has helped provide evidence of the conservation benefits of catch-and-release practices.
"Short- and long-term recoveries of tagged fish demonstrate that a released fish can be caught again. In addition, information provided by recreational anglers through the tagging program has enabled biologists to better understand marine fishery resources," according to DNR.
One notable example of the tagging program occurred two years ago when a 189-pound yellowfin tuna was caught off the west coast of Africa. The same fish had been tagged in South Carolina waters nine years before, when it weighed only 15 pounds, according to DNR.
More information on the program can be found at http://1.usa.gov/R35546.
LOGGERHEAD LICENSE PLATE
A newly redesigned endangered-species license plate will again feature the state reptile, the loggerhead sea turtle, a frequent visitor to Beaufort County beaches.
State officials hope the plate will be as successful for the turtle as it was for the bald eagle.
The state launched the eagle plate in 1994 and sold 10,000 of them by the early 2000s. At the time of the launch, there were 101 nesting eagles in the state. There are now 250 nesting pairs, and the eagle is no longer on the endangered species list, DNR says.
The license plates, one of the main funding sources for conserving S.C. endangered species, have featured the loggerhead since the eagle plates were discontinued.
DNR says sales of the plates have helped the state's sea turtle program, which depends on the work of more than 1,000 volunteers to protect nests on state beaches, including those in Beaufort County.
The plates cost $30 every two years in addition to the normal vehicle registration fee. To order the plate, mail a completed application, which can be found at http://www.scdmvonline.com/DMVNew/forms/MV-95.doc, and fees to: SC Division of Motor Vehicles, P.O. Box 1498, Blythewood, SC 29216-0008.
You can also go to any DMV office, call 803-737-4000 or go to www.scdmvonline.com to apply.
If you already have an endangered-species license plate on your vehicle, you can maintain your current plate, according to DNR. Any lost or damaged endangered-species plates will be replaced with the new design.