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Catch and Release - New Injectable Tags Improve Fish Safety, Data Reliability

February 2015

Researchers at PNNL have upped their fish tracking capabilities once again. A new injectable tracking device, the length of two grains of rice, can now be inserted into young fish in just 20 seconds by using a syringe instead of surgery. This reduces the handling time of the fish by more than 80%, increasing their survival rate by eliminating surgery-associated complications. Consequently, engineers working on fish-friendly turbine designs will have more reliable data about fish movement through hydroelectric dams.

The injectable tags, called the Juvenile Salmon Acoustic Telemetry System (JSATS), were first under development as far back at 2001. By 2007, the tag was still about three times heavier than today’s version, and was inserted into anesthetized fish through a small incision, which was then hand-stitched closed. Due to tag weight and side effects from surgery, data gathered by these early tag versions were less reliable. In addition to the new tags being smaller and lighter, they also have new and improved capabilities. The tags, which release sounds at set intervals, now last for an average of 120 days instead of 23 days. New features include a temperature sensor, the ability to adjust sound levels and release two unique tracking codes alternately, and programming capabilities that enable the tag to be silent for a pre-determined amount of time.

Next steps for JSATS include transferring the technology to a commercial vendor that will independently manufacture and sell it; several companies have expressed interest in licensing the technology. In the meantime, the JSATS team is working to improve the fish tag even more, including the development of a smaller tag for juvenile eels and lamprey in partnership with the U.S. DOE Wind and Water Power Technologies Office. Initial funding for the development of JSATS was provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s Portland District.

To learn more, read the PNNL news release, visit the JSATS website, or check out the recent publication in Scientific Reports.

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