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Maximum tag to body size ratios for an endangered coho salmon (O. kisutch) stock based on physiology and performance

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Many coho salmon stocks (Oncorhynchus kisutch) have been in decline during the past three decades. Canada’s most endangered salmon stock, the Thompson River coho salmon, is being studied extensively as managers attempt to reverse these population declines. Investigators are using acoustic telemetry to track the migratory behaviour and survival of the Thompson River (and other) coho salmon stocks. Coho salmon pre-smolts are relatively small compared with salmonid species that are typically studied using acoustic telemetry; therefore the identification of the appropriate sizes of fish and tags to use is critical. This study tested the effects of surgically implanting the three smallest sizes of acoustic tags currently available on the growth, survival, tag retention, swimming performance and physical condition of coho salmon pre-smolts for 300 days post-surgery. Maximum tag size to body size ratios ranged from 15–17% by fork length and 7–8% by mass for the three tag sizes (11 cm fork length for a 6 × 19 mm tag, 12.5 cm for a 7 × 19 mm tag, and 14 cm for a 9 × 21 mm tag). Based on our results, it is unlikely that coho salmon pre-smolts implanted with acoustic transmitters following these size guidelines would have poor survival in studies of freshwater migratory behaviour as a result of the surgery or the tag.

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Thanks to N. Richardson, S. Dean, J. VanVuuren, J. Shiller, and L. Skinner for their help with sampling and feeding, to K. Hunter, S. Balfry and C. Biagi for their assistance and advice, and to the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the manuscript. Thanks to the fish used in this experiment, the Spius Creek Hatchery staff and the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

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Correspondence to Cedar M. Chittenden.

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Chittenden, C.M., Butterworth, K.G., Cubitt, K.F. et al. Maximum tag to body size ratios for an endangered coho salmon (O. kisutch) stock based on physiology and performance. Environ Biol Fish 84, 129–140 (2009).

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