Fisheries Techniques, Third Edition

Chapter 18: Biotelemetry and Biologging

Steven J. Cooke, Scott G. Hinch, Martyn C. Lucas, and Molly Lutcavage

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874295.ch18

Our knowledge of fish behavior, ecology, and ecophysiology relies, in part, on the study of individual free-swimming fish in their natural environment. Biotelemetry and biologging allow us to acquire this knowledge (Lucas et al. 1993; Cooke et al. 2004a; Naito 2004; Block 2005). Both techniques involve remotely monitoring behavioral, physiological, or environmental information, but in biotelemetry a signal from a transmitter carried by the fish sends the information to a receiver whereas in biologging the information is recorded and stored in an animal-borne device and the information is downloaded after the logger is recovered.

Relative to other fisheries techniques, biotelemetry and biologging are recent innovations (Trefethen 1956), but both are now common tools in fisheries science (Lucas and Baras 2000; Cooke et al. 2004a; Block 2005; Nielsen et al. 2009). However, many researchers are unfamiliar with all of the diverse technological options that biotelemetry and biologging offer. This chapter provides an overview of these techniques for studying the behavior (Box 18.1) and physiology (Box 18.2) of free-swimming fish, emphasizing their application, methodology, potential, and limitations.

Advantages of biotelemetry and biologging include the ability to assess differences among individuals (Cooke et al. 2006; Young et al. 2006), to couple behavior and physiology, and to work across different spatial and temporal scales (Akesson 2002). Because telemetry is typically conducted in field settings, it provides realism that is not possible in the laboratory (but telemetry also has laboratory applications; section 18.4.4). These methods enable collection of behavioral and physiological data in remote or harsh environments such as deep oceans where conventional sampling or direct observation is difficult or inadequate (e.g., Priede and Smith 1986; Sims et al. 2003). Biotelemetry data can be collected in real time, providing the opportunity to modify experimental protocols and management strategies (e.g., Cooke and Schreer 2003; English et al. 2005). Moreover, data can be collected continuously under varying environmental conditions. These techniques are also effective for the study of endangered fishes because they are relatively noninvasive, are data rich for small sample sizes, and do not require the permanent removal of fish from their natural environment (e.g., Simpson and Mapleston 2002; Pearson and Healey 2003; Sims et al. 2003; Cooke et al. 2008).