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RFID Antenna to Catch Fish

Work is being carried out to deploy a 16-by-16-foot RFID reader antenna at a chute on the Columbia River to track tagged salmon whizzing past at 60 miles per hour.
By Clare Swedberg
Nov 03, 2005RFID use in Columbia fish tracking is about to reach new depths. Digital Angel Corp. is developing an antenna that will read radio frequency identification tags in Pacific Northwest juvenile salmon as they pass through large chutes on their way to the Pacific Ocean, moving as fast as 60 miles per hour.

In the 1980s, with the population of salmon dwindling in the Columbia Basin, the National Marine Fisheries Services and the Bonneville Power Authority (BPA) took an interest in fish tracking via RFID. That kind of tracking was already underway with livestock, and some officials realized the same might work for salmon and steelhead, another endangered river fish.


After the salmon is sedated, a Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tag is injected into its abdomen.
With eight dams built on the Columbia River, running through Idaho, Washington and Oregon, environmentalists and recreational fisherman wanted the declining salmon population addressed. Since federally owned BPA manages one of the largest of these dams, they were the first to fund salmon-tracking research.

The result was a fish-tracking program using RFID tags that has been carried out with millions of fish over the past 15 years, answering numerous questions about where and why salmon mortality occurs.

For young salmon, RFID tracking begins in one of the many salmon farming areas up river, or in spawning grounds. There, farmers or federal or state employees gather fish in tanks, sedate them and inject full duplex tags known as Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags into their abdomens. The rice grain-sized tag consists of a tiny coil antenna and integrated circuit in a glass encasement. Farmers or researchers then scan the tag and input biological detail about the fish, such as size and weight. That information is directed to the PIT Tag Information System (PTAGIS) database and Web site, where the movement of each fish can be tracked.

After three days in the recovery tanks, the young salmon are released to begin their journey to the ocean. The readers installed at dams send a signal to energize the tags and collect data about the fish as they pass.

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