Growth, survival, and tag retention of steelhead trout (O. mykiss) surgically implanted with dummy acoustic tags
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- Welch, D.W., Batten, S.D. & Ward, B.R. Hydrobiologia (2007) 582: 289. doi:10.1007/s10750-006-0553-x
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Recent advances in micro-electronics make the study of the migration of even small marine animals (>12 cm) over many 1000s of kilometres a serious possibility. Important assumptions in long-term studies are that rates of tag loss caused by mortality or tag shedding are low, and that the tagging procedure does not have an unacceptable negative effect on the animal. This paper reports results from a study to examine the retention of relatively large (24 × 8 mm) surgically-implanted dummy acoustic tags over a 7-month period in steelhead pre-smolts (O. mykiss), and the effects of implantation on growth and survival. Although there was some influence on growth to week 12, survival was high for animals > 13 cm FL. In the following 16-week period, growth of surgically implanted pre-smolts was the same as the control population and there was little tag loss from mortality or shedding. Currently available acoustic tags can be implanted in salmonid fish ≥12 cm FL, although combined losses from mortality and tag shedding were 33–40% for animals in the 12 and 13 cm FL size classes. By 14 cm FL, combined rates of tag loss (mortality plus tag shedding) for surgically implanted tags dropped to <15% and growth following surgery was close to that of the controls. Our results suggest that studies of ocean migration and survival over periods of many months are now feasible even for animals as small as salmon smolts. Surgically implanted salmon smolts are therefore good candidates for freshwater and coastal ocean-tracking studies on relatively long time scales (months). On such time scales, even relatively small salmon smolts may move thousands of kilometers in the ocean.