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Title: To tag or not to tag: animal welfare, conservation and stakeholder considerations in fish tracking studies that use electronic tags

The advent and widespread adoption of electronic tags (including biotelemetry and biologging devices) for tracking animals has provided unprecedented information on the biology, management, and conservation of fish in the world’s oceans and inland waters. However, use of these tools is not without controversy. Even when scientific and management objectives may best be achieved using electronic tags, it is increasingly important to further consider other factors such as the welfare of tagged animals (i.e., the role of training and science-based surgical guidelines, anesthetic use, inability to maintain sterile conditions in field environments), the ethics of tagging threatened species vs. using surrogates, stakeholder perspectives on tagging (including aboriginals), as well as use of data emanating from such studies (e.g., by fishers to facilitate exploitation). Failure to do so will have the potential to create conflict and undermine scientific, management and public confidence in the use of this powerful tool. Indeed, there are already a number of examples of where tracking studies using electronic tags have been halted based on concerns raised by researchers, authorities, or stakeholders. Here we present a candid evaluation of several factors that should be considered when determining when to tag or not to tag fish with electronicmore » devices. It is not our objective to judge the merit of previous studies. Rather, we hope to stimulate debate and discussion regarding the use of electronic tags to study fish. Relatedly, there is a need for more research to address these questions (e.g., what level of cleanliness is needed when conducting surgeries, what type of training should be required for fish surgery) including human dimensions studies to understand perspectives of different actors including society as a whole with respect to tagging and tracking studies.« less
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Resource Type:
Journal Article
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Journal Name: Journal of International Wildlife Law & Policy, 16(4):352-374
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US)
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Country of Publication:
United States