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Scottish Mackerel Factories, Norwegian Researchers Track Fish Health via RFID

The LF system, provided by RFID Solutions, is enabling researchers in Norway and factories on both coasts of the North Sea to track populations of mackerel being caught.
By Claire Swedberg

Data is collected at the Institute of Marine Research's central database in Bergen, Norway. The platform includes Web-based software that captures all of the data biased on tag reads, as well as the system's status at each factory. The software provides analysis based on biological information, such as the date of capture and the abundance of fish, which can be used to better manage quotas for the fisheries.

The IMR has been using the data received not only to gain information in real time, but also to view historical patterns. There are some statistical calculations worked into the results, Slotte explains. For instance, he says, if researchers were to release 1,000 tagged fish to the sea and let them mix, then catch a million fish, "If you scan the catch through the RFID antenna-reader systems and get one tagged fish recaptured, then you expect a thousand times more fish in the sea than the tagged population of fish." Therefore, he says, "the estimate of abundance is one billion fish."

Introducing RFID to the system not only reduces labor time on the part of researchers and factory workers, Slotte notes, but also better ensures that tags will be identified. In fact, with the introduction of RFID, the rate of tagged fish reads increased tenfold. The technology was initially tested at a Norwegian factory in 2011, then was installed the following year at eight additional factories. Since 2014, the system has expanded to another eight factories in Scotland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

All participating factories are given access to the read data, but only to information related to recaptures. As such, they can follow recaptures as they occur, but cannot edit or access analysis of the data.

Since the RFID system was taken live, the IMR has begun tagging Norwegian spring-spawning herring. That effort, Slotte says, will require RFID infrastructure at factories dedicated to herring. The agency is currently in conversations with those factories, he adds, and is also working on the necessary changes to the software to accommodate the new fish variety.

In the future, Slotte says, salmon that the IMR tags as smolts (juveniles) in North Sea tributaries may also be recaptured in these systems. A growing number of countries have shown an interest in participating in the program, he reports.

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