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Evaluation of water entry into the coelom and different levels of aseptic technique during surgical implantation of electronic tags in freshwater fish

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Abstract

We reviewed the literature in an attempt to determine the importance of aseptic technique when implanting electronic tags in fish. Given that there was negligible information on this topic we embarked on a study where bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) were used as a model to investigate the effects of different aseptic surgical techniques for the intracoelomic implantation of electronic tags in fish. First we tested the effects of water entry into the incision using five treatments: lake, distilled and saline water introduced into the incision, water-free controls, and non-surgery controls. For fish in the water treatments, 1 mL of the sample was introduced into their coelom prior to incision closure. Fish were held for 10 days to monitor survival and at the end of the study, the survivors were blood sampled and euthanized to evaluate condition and health using the health assessment index. In a second experiment, four aseptic treatments were used: non-sterile, field-based, high-grade sterility, and non-surgery controls and fish were monitored as in the first experiment. For both experiments, no differences in physiological status, health or mortality were noted among treatment groups. However, in the aseptic techniques experiment, surgical times were approximately twice as long for fish in the sterile treatment as compared to other groups and the costs of surgical supplies was greater than that of the less-sterile treatments. Although we failed to document any benefit of keeping water out of the incision or using aseptic technique for bluegill, in other situations and for other species, such approaches may be important. As such, we encourage fish surgeons practicing intracoelomic implants to attempt to prevent water entry into the coelom. We also encourage, at least some level of infection control (e.g., non-sterile gloves, clean tags and surgical tools) consistent with good veterinary practices to maintain the welfare status of tagged fish and ensure that the data from tagged fish representative of untagged conspecifics. However, the most prudent and ethical approach would be to work with veterinarians to incorporate formal sterilization procedures, equipment (e.g., sterile gloves) and aseptic technique into field surgical techniques.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the staff of the Queen’s University Biology Station for assistance. Financial support for the project was provided by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council, and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation. All experiments were conducted in accordance with the Canadian Council of Animal Care Guidelines as administered by Carleton University. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources kindly provided a scientific collection permit. We thank Karen Murchie and three anonymous referees for comments on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to S. H. McConnachie.

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Chomyshyn, L., McConnachie, S.H. & Cooke, S.J. Evaluation of water entry into the coelom and different levels of aseptic technique during surgical implantation of electronic tags in freshwater fish. Rev Fish Biol Fisheries 21, 61–70 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11160-010-9189-z

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