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Transponding Tags
February 2005
Tagging and Tracking Technologies
for Freshwater and Marine Fishes
PURPOSE: This technical note presents an overview of tagging options, telemetry hardware
(receiver, hydrophones, etc.,), detection ranges, fish capture and handling procedures, and tag
attachment methods for consideration when designing and executing studies to tag and track
aquatic and marine fish species. The existing technology is summarized with regard to
capabilities, costs, availability, and advantages and disadvantages of each type.
INTRODUCTION: Acoustic tags have been used for monitoring fish movement for more than
three decades. The National Marine Fisheries Service made one of the first attempts at using this
technology in 1955 by attaching 132-kHz tags to adult Chinook and Coho salmon (Trefethen
1956). Since this initial study, "telemetry" has been used both in the United States and abroad to
track movements of many fish species, mostly notably salmonids (Lacroix and McCurdy 1996,
Steig 1999). In addition, telemetry has been used extensively in tracking marine mammals such
as manatees (Reid 2001), reptiles (e.g., sea turtles (Keinath et al. 1989)) and numerous terrestrial
wildlife species (Mech and Barber 2002). In recent years, electronic tag types and systems for
tracking fish in both marine and freshwater environments have proliferated. Reduction in tag size
and weight, along with increases in tag "life" and signal strength, has expanded telemetry
applications for better management of threatened and endangered species. Although this
technology has broad applications, this technical note will focus primarily on aquatic and marine
fish species.
HARDWARE: Significant advances in telemetry technology have been made in recent years
with the integration of multiple types of transmitters and receivers. All systems operate on the
premise of transmitting information from fish to researchers in the form of sound energy
transmission, either in radio (20 to 300 MHz), ultrasonic (20-300 kHz), or satellite (UHF
401.650 MHz) frequencies. The latest technological advance is the advent of combined sonic
and radio transmitters. Ultrasonic and radio telemetry methods are reviewed by Winter (1983).
Basic considerations of components necessary for telemetry studies are discussed below.
TELEMETRY AND TAGGING OPTIONS:  Much of the advancement in telemetry
technology has been in the area of tag development; however, tag selection is still greatly
dependent on the type of data that the user wants to obtain. Several factors must be considered
when choosing transmitters, including size of the tag relative to body size of the target species
and life history stage, battery longevity and detection range. These factors are directly related to
battery size, in that larger batteries increase the operational life expectancy of the tag along with
signal strength, but require increased overall dimensions and weight. These factors are typically
trade-offs for all telemetry studies in that a requirement to monitor a specific species for a
prolonged period of time may require a tag size and weight that are unsuitable for that species to
handle without affecting behavior or survivability. The generally accepted practice is to limit the

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