Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 4796
Title: Surgical insertion of transmitters and telemetry methods in fisheries research
Author: A. Michelle Wargo Rub, N. Jepsen, Theresa L. Liedtke, Mary L. Moser, E. P. Scott Weber
Publication Year: 2014
Journal: American Journal of Veterinary Research
Volume: 75
Issue: 4
Pages: 402-416
Keywords: surgical implant, fish surgery, veterinary best practices, research collaboration,

A 2004 survey of researchers actively using surgery for fish telemetry deployment indicated that they had learned transmitter implantation techniques primarily from a combination of observation, various literature sources, and mentors.  Less than 10% of respondents had received professional instruction from an educator or veterinarian through an academic or professional development course.  Furthermore, although the majority of respondents reported that surgical experience was important to ensuring a successful outcome, 65% reported that they had little practice (performing surgery on only 1 10 individuals) before participating in their first telemetry study.  Thirteen percent of respondents admitted that they had performed implantation surgeries with no prior practice. 

Responses from this survey indicated substantial room for improvement in the teaching and development of surgical protocols for implantation of telemetry transmitters, and the authors of the survey concluded that non-veterinary “fish surgeons can only benefit from interaction and consultation with veterinarians.”  Unfortunately, comments received from the survey participants also indicated that some researchers were hesitant to approach veterinarians for advice.  This reluctance was due to a perception that veterinarians lacked specific instruction or training in fish medicine or did not have enough experience working in field conditions to offer any practical assistance. 

Harms and Lewbart attempted to change this perception and to foster collaboration between veterinarians and fisheries researchers in 2011 through publication of a paper outlining the "veterinarian’s role in surgical implantation of electronic tags in fish."  Here we provide additional information about how veterinary principles can be incorporated into fish surgical implantation procedures.  We also provide insight into the unique challenges of aquatic field based surgical studies.  Within this context, we describe common protocols in four aspects of the process used to surgically implant transmitters in fish:  handling, aseptic technique, anesthesia, and implantation.  We briefly describe the effects of surgical tagging that have been documented to date and conclude by identifying aspects of the surgical implant process where collaboration and professional exchange amongst researchers and veterinarians may be most fruitful.

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Theme: Recovery, Rebuilding and Sustainability of Marine and Anadromous Species
Foci: Describe the relationship among human activities and species stock status, recovery, rebuilding and sustainability.
Investigate ecological and socio-economic effects of alternative management strategies or governance structures.