Best practice guidelines for cetacean tagging. Submitted to J. Cetacean Res. Manage. 2019.
Russel D. Andrews, Robin W. Baird, John Calambokidis, Caroline E.C. Goertz, Frances M.D. Gulland, Mads Peter Heide-JÃ¸rgensen, Sascha K. Hooker, Mark Johnson, Bruce Mate, Yoko Mitani, Douglas P. Nowacek, Kylie Owen, Lori T. Quakenbush et al.
Animal-borne electronic instruments (tags) are valuable tools for collecting information on cetacean physiology, behavior and ecology, and for enhancing conservation and management policies for cetacean populations. Tags allow researchers to track the movement patterns, habitat use and other aspects of the behavior of animals that are otherwise difficult to observe, and can even monitor the physiology of the tagged animal within its changing environment. Such tags are ideal for identifying and predicting responses to anthropogenic threats, thus facilitating the development of robust mitigation measures. With the increasing need for data best provided by tagging and the increasing availability of tags, such research is becoming more common. Tagging can, however, pose risks to the health and welfare of cetaceans and to personnel involved in tagging operations. Here we provide best practice recommendations for cetacean tag design, deployment and follow-up assessment of tagged individuals, compiled by biologists and veterinarians with significant experience in cetacean tagging. This document is intended to serve as a resource to assist tag users, veterinarians, ethics committees and regulatory agency staff in the implementation of high standards of practice, and to promote the training of specialists in this area. Standardized terminology for describing tag design and illustrations of tag types and attachment sites are provided, along with protocols for tag testing and deployment (both remote and through capture-release), including training of operators. The recommendations emphasize the importance of ensuring that tagging is ethically and scientifically justified for a particular project and that tagging only be used to address bona fide research or conservation questions that are best addressed with tagging, as supported by an exploration of alternative methods. Recommendations are provided for minimizing effects on individual animals (e.g., through careful selection of the individual, tag design and implant sterilization) and improving knowledge of tagging effects on cetaceans through increased post-tagging monitoring.