Guidelines for the Use of Fishes in Research

5. Field Activities


Whether fishes are being collected live for investigations, preserved for study in a museum, or processed to obtain data needed for fisheries management, investigators should observe and pass on to students and employees a strict ethic of habitat conservation, and respectful and humane treatment of the animals in sampling, handling, and euthanasia (ASIH et al. 1987, 1988; AVMA 2013). Collecting should be conducted in a way that minimizes habitat disturbance and “excessive” mortality. The UFR Committee recognizes that currently no field collection techniques exist that will cause zero mortality events in the population being sampled. Research goals will generally dictate appropriate sampling methods. Given a set of alternative sampling methods and collecting gears, investigators can select the ones which cause the minimum levels of habitat disturbance and mortality in target and non-target fish populations. Gathering large series of animals from breeding aggregations should be avoided unless required to meet study objectives. Use of collecting techniques that damage habitat unnecessarily should also be avoided or performed to the minimum extent necessary to achieve study or sampling objectives. For example, trawling or other forms of dragged or towed gears is essential for documenting fish diversity or monitoring the health of fish populations; however, such gears can cause extensive disturbance to substrates, macrophytes, or other important structural elements of fish habitat. Sampling equipment and strategies can be designed to minimize incidental capture of non-target species. Collecting gears, such as gill nets deployed for nonlethal sampling, should be checked frequently to avoid unnecessary mortality. Regardless of the purpose of the experiment—whether to manipulate abundance or to study behavior, reproductive potential, or survivability—mortalities within the population and disturbance to habitat should be kept to the minimum amount that the investigator (along with the IACUC) determines to be acceptable.

The reader should note that some content in section 5 is not restricted to field activities but can extend to laboratory situations as well.