Effects of acoustic tagging on juvenile green sturgeon incision healing, swimming performance, and growth
Ultrasonic telemetry is a preferred method for fish-movement studies. Despite surgical tag implantation being the most common method for affixing tags, many studies lack tests addressing the assumption that tagging has no effect on fish performance or survival. The threatened, anadromous green sturgeon, Acipenser medirostris, has little documentation concerning its movements. We evaluated the effects of surgery and tag implantation in juveniles. We compared three groups: tagged fish with dummy transmitters implanted in the peritoneal cavity, sham fish that underwent surgery without tag implantation, and control fish that were handled and anesthetized but did not undergo surgery. We found no differences in growth or critical swimming velocity among groups. Photos of incisions were taken towards the beginning and at the end of the study to assess inflammation and to score each incision for closure and suture retention. Inflammation declined similarly for tagged and sham fish during the study. Ucrit was not related to the extent of inflammation or to post-surgery time. All fish showed healing during the study (ca. 140 day duration) and 10 % of tagged and sham fish showed signs of inflammation by the study end. These results suggest that current ultrasonic surgical tagging methods do not significantly affect the short-term growth or swimming performance of juvenile green sturgeon. Additionally, effects of surgery can be mitigated by minimizing the number of suture entry points and by using rapid-absorbing sutures.