Extending the 2% rule: The effects of heavy internal tags on stress physiology, swimming performance, and growth in brook trout

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Abstract

Background: The use of internal telemetry has greatly advanced fisheries research in the past two decades, permitting researchers to observe movements and distributions of organisms in their natural environment. For many years, the prevailing opinion has been that internal tags should not weigh more than 2% of the dry body weight of a fish. Some studies indicate that tags weighing up to 12% dry body weight do not have a negative effect on swimming performance, but few authors have examined impacts to fish physiology and health. This study investigated how tags greater than 2% body mass affected the mortality, tag retention, swimming performance, and physiological indicators of stress in brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis Mitchill). Results: No mortality was observed between treatment groups, but tag retention was lowest in the heavy tag treatment group in which 80% (12 fish) lost tags. Swimming performance and physiological indices of stress were not significantly impacted by tag mass. Fish tagged with heavy tags showed slower growth in the 3weeks after tagging, but growth rates appeared to recover by the end of the study, although this result may be confounded by tag loss. Conclusion: The results of this study suggest that for brook trout, the 2% rule is a highly conservative guideline that can be substantially extended but should not exceed 7% body weight due to concerns about tag retention.

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Smircich, M. G., & Kelly, J. T. (2014). Extending the 2% rule: The effects of heavy internal tags on stress physiology, swimming performance, and growth in brook trout. Animal Biotelemetry, 2(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/2050-3385-2-16

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