Great Lakes watchers implanting ID codes in fish
Written by Canadian Press   
Monday, 21 April 2008 09:00

TORONTO -- Great Lakes watchers are taking a high-tech approach to managing fish populations by mechanically implanting tiny identification codes in the noses of fish so they can be tracked, identified and provide data in the future about the health of the waters.

An estimated 32 million trout and salmon are stocked into the Great Lakes basin each year to help sustain a $4 billion fishing industry and maintain the biodiversity of the waters. 

The new AutoFish technology will mark fish that are introduced into the lakes from hatcheries, and arm officials with information about the populations in the lakes, how the fish behave and travel, and how environmental conditions are affecting different fish, said Terry Quinney, a manager with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and the Canadian adviser to the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission.

"This should enable us to accelerate our Great Lakes restoration and the fish cannot thrive unless the waters are healthy,'' he said.

New York state has already been using the AutoFish system for a couple weeks and it will get its official launch in Ontario on Monday.

By day's end, an estimated 500,000 fish will be processed on the Canadian side of the border.

While similar tagging had been done previously by hand, it was far too slow and wasn't efficient enough to keep up with stocking, Quinney said. It was also more stressful on the fish and resulted in higher mortality rates.

With the AutoFish system, the baby fish never leave the water and never touch human hands. They're introduced into a series of canals and are corralled into an area where almost-microscopic instruments place identifiers on the fish.

"They're in and out,'' Quinney said, adding the procedure takes half a second per fish.

"You can see there's an advantage there from lowering things like stress levels on these young fish and an additional advantage is the speed and efficiency.''

The AutoFish system is portable and will be moved around the Great Lakes basin to mark millions of hatchery fish before they're introduced into the waters, he said.

 
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