Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 369–400 | Cite as

Conducting and interpreting fish telemetry studies: considerations for researchers and resource managers

  • Jacob W. BrownscombeEmail author
  • Elodie J. I. Lédée
  • Graham D. Raby
  • Daniel P. Struthers
  • Lee F. G. Gutowsky
  • Vivian M. Nguyen
  • Nathan Young
  • Michael J. W. Stokesbury
  • Christopher M. Holbrook
  • Travis O. Brenden
  • Christopher S. Vandergoot
  • Karen J. Murchie
  • Kim Whoriskey
  • Joanna Mills Flemming
  • Steven T. Kessel
  • Charles C. Krueger
  • Steven J. Cooke


Telemetry is an increasingly common tool for studying the ecology of wild fish, with great potential to provide valuable information for management and conservation. For researchers to conduct a robust telemetry study, many essential considerations exist related to selecting the appropriate tag type, fish capture and tagging methods, tracking protocol, data processing and analyses, and interpretation of findings. For telemetry-derived knowledge to be relevant to managers and policy makers, the research approach must consider management information needs for decision-making, while end users require an understanding of telemetry technology (capabilities and limitations), its application to fisheries research and monitoring (study design), and proper interpretation of results and conclusions (considering the potential for biases and proper recognition of associated uncertainties). To help bridge this gap, we provide a set of considerations and a checklist for researchers to guide them in conducting reliable and management-relevant telemetry studies, and for managers to evaluate the reliability and relevance of telemetry studies so as to better integrate findings into management plans. These considerations include implicit assumptions, technical limitations, ethical and biological realities, analytical merits, and the relevance of study findings to decision-making processes.


Fishery management Biotelemetry Conservation Uncertainty Data interpretation 



This work was funded by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission by way of the Science Transfer Committee (to Cooke, Nguyen, Young, Vandergoot and Krueger) and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative appropriations (GL-00E23010). Additional support to Cooke was provided by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Canada Research Chairs Program, and Ocean Tracking Network Canada. Brownscombe is supported by a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship and Bonefish and Tarpon Trust. Raby was supported by an NSERC Post-Doctoral Fellowship. This paper is Contribution 58 of the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System (GLATOS) and is also a product of Ideas OTN. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jacob W. Brownscombe
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Elodie J. I. Lédée
    • 1
  • Graham D. Raby
    • 3
  • Daniel P. Struthers
    • 4
  • Lee F. G. Gutowsky
    • 5
  • Vivian M. Nguyen
    • 1
  • Nathan Young
    • 6
  • Michael J. W. Stokesbury
    • 7
  • Christopher M. Holbrook
    • 8
  • Travis O. Brenden
    • 9
  • Christopher S. Vandergoot
    • 10
  • Karen J. Murchie
    • 11
  • Kim Whoriskey
    • 12
  • Joanna Mills Flemming
    • 12
  • Steven T. Kessel
    • 11
  • Charles C. Krueger
    • 13
  • Steven J. Cooke
    • 1
  1. 1.Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology Laboratory, Department of Biology and Institute of Environmental and Interdisciplinary ScienceCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Department of BiologyDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  3. 3.Great Lakes Institute for Environmental ResearchUniversity of WindsorWindsorCanada
  4. 4.Parks Canada, Banff National ParkBanffCanada
  5. 5.Aquatic Research and Monitoring Section, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and ForestryTrent UniversityPeterboroughCanada
  6. 6.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  7. 7.Department of BiologyAcadia UniversityWolfvilleCanada
  8. 8.U.S. Geological Survey, Great Lakes Science CenterHammond Bay Biological StationMillersburgUSA
  9. 9.Department of Fisheries and WildlifeMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  10. 10.U.S. Geological Survey, Great Lakes Science CenterLake Erie Biological StationSanduskyUSA
  11. 11.Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and ResearchJohn G. Shedd AquariumChicagoUSA
  12. 12.Department of Mathematics and StatisticsDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  13. 13.Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Center for Systems Integration and SustainabilityMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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