Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 127–151 | Cite as

Advancing the surgical implantation of electronic tags in fish: a gap analysis and research agenda based on a review of trends in intracoelomic tagging effects studies

  • Steven J. CookeEmail author
  • Christa M. Woodley
  • M. Brad Eppard
  • Richard S. Brown
  • Jennifer L. Nielsen
Research Paper


Early approaches to surgical implantation of electronic tags in fish were often through trial and error, however, in recent years there has been an interest in using scientific research to identify techniques and procedures that improve the outcome of surgical procedures and determine the effects of tagging on individuals. Here we summarize the trends in 108 peer-reviewed electronic tagging effect studies focused on intracoleomic implantation to determine opportunities for future research. To date, almost all of the studies have been conducted in freshwater, typically in laboratory environments, and have focused on biotelemetry devices. The majority of studies have focused on salmonids, cyprinids, ictalurids and centrarchids, with a regional bias towards North America, Europe and Australia. Most studies have focused on determining whether there is a negative effect of tagging relative to control fish, with proportionally fewer that have contrasted different aspects of the surgical procedure (e.g., methods of sterilization, incision location, wound closure material) that could advance the discipline. Many of these studies included routine endpoints such as mortality, growth, healing and tag retention, with fewer addressing sublethal measures such as swimming ability, predator avoidance, physiological costs, or fitness. Continued research is needed to further elevate the practice of electronic tag implantation in fish in order to ensure that the data generated are relevant to untagged conspecifics (i.e., no long-term behavioural or physiological consequences) and the surgical procedure does not impair the health and welfare status of the tagged fish. To that end, we advocate for (1) rigorous controlled manipulations based on statistical designs that have adequate power, account for inter-individual variation, and include controls and shams, (2) studies that transcend the laboratory and the field with more studies in marine waters, (3) incorporation of knowledge and techniques emerging from the medical and veterinary disciplines, (4) addressing all components of the surgical event, (5) comparative studies that evaluate the same surgical techniques on multiple species and in different environments, (6) consideration of how biotic factors (e.g., sex, age, size) influence tagging outcomes, and (7) studies that cover a range of endpoints over ecologically relevant time periods.


Surgery Biotelemetry Behavior Electronic tags 



Cooke was supported by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District under contract from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Contract # DE-AC05-76RL01830). Additional support was provided by Carleton University, the Canada Research Chairs Program, and the Ocean Telemetry Network Canada. Chris Holbrook, Karen Murchie and an anonymous referee kindly provided comments on the manuscript. Any reference to trade names does not indicate endorsement by the US Federal Government.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven J. Cooke
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christa M. Woodley
    • 2
  • M. Brad Eppard
    • 3
  • Richard S. Brown
    • 2
  • Jennifer L. Nielsen
    • 4
  1. 1.Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology Laboratory, Department of Biology and Institute of Environmental ScienceCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Ecology Group, Pacific Northwest National LaboratoryRichlandUSA
  3. 3.United States Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District OfficePortlandUSA
  4. 4.United States Geological Survey, Alaska Science CenterAnchorageUSA

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