North American Fishing Tags

Transatlantic fishing tags and licences

These coloured plastic tags, lost from ships or fishing gear, can be found on the strandline. Some are local (Sussex IFCA), but some have travelled on transatlantic currents to find their way to our shores in the same way as sea beans. In the image above you can see lobster trap tags from the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. & Canada. They are used as fishing licences for every fishing person and for every trap used. These may be renewed every year, or may be multi-year tags. Generally, single year tags are a specific colour. For example, in Atlantic fishing areas from 1 April, 2022 to 31 March 2023, the colour will be purple for Newfoundland and Labrador. Multiyear plastic tags must currently be white. There are regulations for the replacement of lost tags, which should be strictly controlled. 

The letters and numbers show the location and sea area, date, and species (lobster, crab etc.) the tags have been used for.

ME = Maine
MA = Massachusetts
RI = Rhode Island
C = Connecticut
D = Delaware
M = Maryland
NH = New Hampshire
NFLD = Newfoundland

Fishing licence

A fishing licence, issued to the fisher person, gives the name of the fishing vessel, and often includes the name (and even the telephone number!) of the fisherman. Some are in remarkably good condition, considering their age. A surprising amount of information was found about the licence above, which was found locally.

Have you found any of these tags? Strandliners is creating a database of tags found on the Kent and Sussex coast. We need information including, if possible…

What it is? (does it need identifying?)
Any photo available?
Location, where found (nearest town, beach/riverbank, lower beach, strandline or back of beach)
Date (day or season and year)
Size (width x height)

Please email with any records, historic included, of these special treasures.