We examined the effects of surgically and gastrically implanted radio transmitters (representing 2.3-5.5% of body weight) on the growth and feeding behavior of 192 juvenile chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha (114-159 mm in fork length). Throughout the 54-d study, the 48 fish with transmitters in their stomachs (gastric fish) consistently grew more slowly than fish with surgically implanted transmitters (surgery fish), fish with surgery but no implanted transmitter (sham-surgery fish), or fish exposed only to handling (control fish). Growth rates of surgery fish were also slightly impaired at day 21, but by day 54 they were growing at rates comparable with those of control fish. Despite differences in growth, overall health was similar among all test fish. However, movement of the transmitter antenna caused abrasions at the corner of the mouth in all gastric fish, whereas only 22% of the surgery fish had inflammation around the antenna exit wound. Feeding activity was similar among groups, but gastric fish exhibited a coughing behavior and appeared to have difficulty retaining swallowed food. Because growth and feeding behavior were less affected by the presence of surgically implanted transmitters than by gastric implants, we recommend surgically implanting transmitters for biotelemetry studies of juvenile chinook salmon between 114 and 159 mm fork length.
Additional publication details
Effects of surgically and gastrically implanted radio transmitters on growth and feeding behavior of juvenile chinook salmon