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Conducting and interpreting fish telemetry studies: considerations for researchers and resource managers

  • Brownscombe, Jacob W.1, 2
  • Lédée, Elodie J. I.1
  • Raby, Graham D.3
  • Struthers, Daniel P.4
  • Gutowsky, Lee F. G.5
  • Nguyen, Vivian M.1
  • Young, Nathan6
  • Stokesbury, Michael J. W.7
  • Holbrook, Christopher M.8
  • Brenden, Travis O.9
  • Vandergoot, Christopher S.10
  • Murchie, Karen J.11
  • Whoriskey, Kim12
  • Mills Flemming, Joanna12
  • Kessel, Steven T.11
  • Krueger, Charles C.13
  • Cooke, Steven J.1
  • 1 Carleton University, Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology Laboratory, Department of Biology and Institute of Environmental and Interdisciplinary Science, 1125 Colonel By Dr., Ottawa, ON, K1S 5B6, Canada , Ottawa (Canada)
  • 2 Dalhousie University, Department of Biology, 1355 Oxford Street, Halifax, NS, B4H 4R2, Canada , Halifax (Canada)
  • 3 University of Windsor, Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, 2601 Union St., Windsor, ON, N9B 3P4, Canada , Windsor (Canada)
  • 4 Parks Canada, Banff National Park, Banff, AB, T1L 1K2, Canada , Banff (Canada)
  • 5 Trent University, Aquatic Research and Monitoring Section, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, 2140 East Bank Drive, Peterborough, ON, K9L 1Z8, Canada , Peterborough (Canada)
  • 6 University of Ottawa, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ottawa, ON, K1N 6N5, Canada , Ottawa (Canada)
  • 7 Acadia University, Department of Biology, 33 Westwood Ave., Wolfville, NS, B4P 2R6, Canada , Wolfville (Canada)
  • 8 Hammond Bay Biological Station, U.S. Geological Survey, Great Lakes Science Center, 11188 Ray Rd., Millersburg, MI, 49759, USA , Millersburg (United States)
  • 9 Michigan State University, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, East Lansing, MI, 48824, USA , East Lansing (United States)
  • 10 Lake Erie Biological Station, U.S. Geological Survey, Great Lakes Science Center, 6100 Columbus Avenue, Sandusky, OH, 44870, USA , Sandusky (United States)
  • 11 John G. Shedd Aquarium, Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and Research, 1200 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL, 60605, USA , Chicago (United States)
  • 12 Dalhousie University, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Halifax, NS, B3H 4R2, Canada , Halifax (Canada)
  • 13 Michigan State University, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, East Lansing, MI, 48823, USA , East Lansing (United States)
Published Article
Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries
Publication Date
Apr 23, 2019
DOI: 10.1007/s11160-019-09560-4
Springer Nature


Telemetry is an increasingly common tool for studying the ecology of wild fish, with great potential to provide valuable information for management and conservation. For researchers to conduct a robust telemetry study, many essential considerations exist related to selecting the appropriate tag type, fish capture and tagging methods, tracking protocol, data processing and analyses, and interpretation of findings. For telemetry-derived knowledge to be relevant to managers and policy makers, the research approach must consider management information needs for decision-making, while end users require an understanding of telemetry technology (capabilities and limitations), its application to fisheries research and monitoring (study design), and proper interpretation of results and conclusions (considering the potential for biases and proper recognition of associated uncertainties). To help bridge this gap, we provide a set of considerations and a checklist for researchers to guide them in conducting reliable and management-relevant telemetry studies, and for managers to evaluate the reliability and relevance of telemetry studies so as to better integrate findings into management plans. These considerations include implicit assumptions, technical limitations, ethical and biological realities, analytical merits, and the relevance of study findings to decision-making processes.

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