Subject: Tagging Abstract:remotely-deployed suction-cup attached tags for cetaceans (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Mon, 2 Feb 1998 15:11:28 -0500 (EST)


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 1 Feb 1998 17:21:59 -0400
From: "Robin W. Baird" <>
Subject: remotely-deployed suction-cup attached tags for cetaceans

The following is the abstract from a talk on using suction-cup
attached tags with cetaceans, presented at a workshop held at
the Monaco marine mammal conference. A number of individuals
expressed interest in the information, so the text from the slides
from this presentation have been put on a web site:

Photos are not yet on the site, though I hope to have some on within
the next few weeks.

Baird, R.W. 1998. Using remotely-deployed suction-cup attached tags
to study sub-surface behaviour of odontocetes. Presentation to the
Workshop on Methods for Assessing Behavioral Impacts on Marine
Mammals from Human Activities, Monaco, January 19, 1998.


Cetaceans spend the vast majority of their time beneath the water's
surface, where they are difficult to observe and study. Unlike
pinnipeds, attachment of tags for recording underwater behaviour is
problematic. Penetrating tags can only be remotely-deployed on species
with thick blubber layers, or by capturing animals (which is
logistically difficult, expensive, and potentially injurious to the
animals). Penetrating tags are usually not recoverable, and thus new
tags are needed for each deployment. By contrast, suction-cup attached
tags are recoverable, reusable, relatively inexpensive (thus larger
numbers of individuals can be sampled), and can be used on small
cetaceans while avoiding the risks and costs of capture operations.
Suction-cup attached tags can be remotely deployed using either a
crossbow or pole, or can be attached to captured or rehabilitated
animals. For sampling diving behaviour, while satellite-linked tags
can only transmit coarse-level data, recoverable data-logging
time-depth recorders (TDRs) can sample and store high resolution data.
Commercially available off-the-shelf TDRs can be set to sample
parameters such as depth, swimming speed, and water temperature at
rates up to once per second. Remotely-deployed suction-cup TDR/VHF
tags have recently been used on a number of species of odontocetes,
including killer whales, Dall's porpoise, northern bottlenose whales,
short-finned pilot whales, and bottlenose dolphins. Tags can sometimes
remain attached for relatively long periods (13-31 hours) on even fast
moving species such as Dall's porpoise and killer whales. Reactions to
tagging attempts vary between species; most species for which these
tags have been used show low-level or moderate reactions to tagging.
Data collected can be used to address both management-based questions
(such as surfacing and diving patterns for survey calibration, or
determining exposure and/or reactions to depth-specific threats such
as fishing gear, vessel traffic or high-intensity underwater sounds),
and questions regarding the basic biology of a species (diurnal
behaviour patterns, ontogeny of diving etc).

Robin W. Baird, Ph.D.
Biology Department, Dalhousie University, 1355 Oxford St.,
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4J1 Canada
Phone (902) 494-3723
Fax (902) 494-3736