What do salmon and Putin’s dog have in common?

October 28, 2008

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s dog (below) isn’t the only creature getting a hi-tech tracking device…scientists can now even follow tiny fish in the depths of the ocean.

Scientists in a Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking project have implanted electronic tags (left) costing $250 each into what they call ‘hot dog sized’ juvenile salmon, about 15 cms long, in rivers in the Rocky Mountains.

It must be a big lump — roughly the same as you getting a tube about 20-30 cms long stuck into your body. 

But two of the fish swam 2,500 km down the Columbia River all the way to Alaska (see a story here), so it can’t be that uncomfortable for salmon, in a first success in tracking such small fish in the open ocean. There the batteries in the tag ran out and no one knows what happened to them. (Get in touch with the scientists if you get served a Chinook salmon with a large black lump in an Anchorage restaurant).

Putin’s dog labrador Koni is linked up to a satellite via a GPS on his collar (unveiled in mid-October). The fish migrations are picked up when they pass over a row of sensors on the seabed.

The salmon data should help solve mysteries about where fish go in the oceans and where they die…The tracking can help researchers protect the stocks — sometime in future if scientists spotted a school of rare migrating fish swimming through a coastal fishing ground they could tell trawlers to haul in their nets for a while until they passed.

Tags to help spy on creatures’ lifestyles are getting smaller and smaller — insects next?

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