Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences

Long-term effects of two sizes of surgically implanted acoustic transmitters on a predatory marine fish (Pomatomus saltatrix)

Eva B. Thorstad A E , Sven E. Kerwath B , Colin G. Attwood C , Finn Økland A , Christopher G. Wilke B , Paul D. Cowley D and Tor F. Næsje A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), NO-7485 Trondheim, Norway.

B Marine and Coastal Management, Private Bag X2, Roggebaai 8012, South Africa.

C Marine Research Institute, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa.

D South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB), Private Bag 1015, Grahamstown, South Africa.

E Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 60(2) 183-186
Submitted: 26 June 2008  Accepted: 24 October 2008   Published: 20 February 2009


Fish telemetry is increasingly used to study fish behaviour in marine systems and it is crucial that the tagging does not affect fish behaviour and welfare negatively. Hence, the long-term effects of surgically implanted acoustic telemetry transmitters on survival, tag retention, healing and growth on Pomatomus saltatrix (known as tailor in Australia, elf in South Africa and bluefish in North America) were studied over 144 days. P. saltatrix are well suited for transmitter implants because no tagging-related short- or long-term mortality or transmitter expulsion was recorded. Small transmitters (9 × 28 mm, 3.3 g in water) did not affect the specific growth rate of tagged fish compared with an untagged control group. In contrast, the fish tagged with large transmitters (13 × 50 mm, 6.9 g in water) had a reduced specific growth rate. The small, but not the large transmitter, seemed suitable for tagging P. saltatrix of the body sizes represented in this study (215–621 g). The specific growth rate was negatively affected by increasing the transmitter-mass-in-water to body-mass ratio. It is recommended that this ratio should not exceed 1.4%.

Additional keywords: bluefish, elf, surgical implantation, tagging effects, tailor, transmitter size.


The NORSA Program, the Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) South Africa and the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) are thanked for financing the project. MCM-approved research projects are covered by a blanket research exemption in terms of South Africa’s Marine Living Resources Act, and additional ethics clearance is not required in that country. However, all procedures followed the ethical requirements of the European Union. MCM staff are thanked for technical assistance. Two anonymous referees are thanked for comments that helped improve the manuscript.


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