Electronic tags have proven to be valuable tools in assessing small cetacean movement and behavior.
However, problems associated with tag size and attachment have limited duration and damaged dorsal fins. These outcomes have motivated researchers to develop a new satellite-linked tag design that reduces detrimental effects to tagged animals, while increasing transmission durations.
The goals of this study, funded by the Office of Naval Research, were to review previous studies that deployed single-pin transmitters and determine factors that influence transmission duration. Subsequent steps involved testing these factors through computational fluid dynamics (CFD) models to identify an optimal single-pin satellite-linked tag design, and evaluating this prototype through field studies.
A review of four projects, which deployed 77 single-pin radio tags, determined that tags attached along the lower third of the dorsal fin and at least 33 mm from the trailing edge resulted in longer transmission durations and reduced negative impacts to the dorsal fin. Based upon these results and CFD modeling, prototype, single-pin satellite-linked tags (n = 25) remained attached and transmitted for an average of 163 days, greatly exceeding results for previous small cetacean telemetry studies. These results suggest that the newly developed single-pin satellite-linked tag design strikes a balance between reducing impacts to the individual while maximizing transmissions.
This article was published on page 21 in the January 2014 Nicks n Notches.