IF you catch a fish in the ocean with a tag on it, chances are it is going to be from South Australia – the tag that is.
Hallprint started as a family-owned label-making company in the early 1980s but has evolved into the world’s leading fish tag brand.
The late Michael Hall and his wife originally concentrated on wine labels, a natural fit in the top wine producing state of South Australia, but changed over to fish tag manufacturing to help their son David.
David was a young fishery biologist at the time and had struggled to find a high-quality fish tag for his research.
More than 30 years later Hallprint is responsible for more than half of the world’s fish tags and exports to more than 100 countries.
Taking over from his parents, David now manages the company, which is located in Hindmarsh Valley, about 65 km south of South Australia’s capital Adelaide.
The tags are made to last a lifetime and are completely readable decades after they have been attached.
David said the tags were fish-specific and were in demand for research and aquaculture.
“They are largely used by scientists to study the movements, patterns and populations of different species,” he said.
“Our external identification tags don’t fall apart, don’t harm the fish and match up to almost anything, from a tiny abalone to a great white shark.
“It’s also useful in fish farms where they are used just like a regular farmer would tag his cattle.”
David said a young boy recently caught a tuna that was tagged using one of Hallprint’s markers more about 25 years ago.
Hallprint's tags are fish specific and can even be used on great white sharks.
Hallprint manufactures more than two million tags a year for a turnover of up to AUD$2 million.
The sturdy tags are made from polyethylene and nylon to protect against UV rays. The shark tags are made from stainless steel.
Researchers mark fish by using a small pole or tagging gun and attaching the tags to the flesh.
The tags do not injure the fish or affect its behaviour once it is released and does not make the fish any more vulnerable to predators.
“We’ve had a lot of research done that show our tags have minimal to no impact on the fish,” David said.
“If the right tags are applied to the right sized fish, there should be no problems.”
Hallprint was also contracted to make tags for the Million Dollar Fish (MDF) competition in the Northern Territory of Australia.
The competition is in its second year and 101 prize-tagged barramundis have been released.
If anyone is fortunate enough to catch a specially marked fish, they win could win thousands of dollars – with one fish worth a AU$1m if caught.
Each remaining fish is worth $10,000 and the competition is not restricted to Australia.
“Three fish have already been caught this season and each of them is marked with one of our tags,” David said.
“They’re basic dart tags but they all have a globally unique number – even though it’s next to impossible for someone to reproduce the tags we have made.”
David said Hallprint also made microchips for fish but were not very involved with the development of other high-tech tags.