Passive Integrated Transponders (PIT) are small electronic tags used to identify and track the movements of individual fish (and other organisms). PIT tags use Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to communicate via radio-waves with a reader. Since the 1990’s, PIT tagging has become widely used in the Murray-Darling Basin for a variety of purposes (for example, monitoring fish passage, fish ID, fish movement etc.), with an estimated 40,000+ fish implanted with PIT tags. PIT tag systems generate a significant amount of data, and in conjunction with the many thousands of PIT tagged fish within the MDB, can produce millions of records that become too complex to manage without an effective way to summarise / interpret the data. In response to these issues, the need for a database was identified.
The objectives of the PIT tag database project were to:
- establish a centralised data warehouse for management of fish tag data for all tags (electronic and passive) in the Murray-Darling Basin.
- allow rapid processing of automated PIT-tag reader data.
- allow streamlined reconciliation and processing of recapture information from public and private sources.
- allow scope for future analysis and initiatives.
- safeguard the considerable investment in tagging and maximise information yield.
- provide fish passage data for improved understanding of fish movement and innovative concepts for fishway design.
- document requirements for ongoing maintenance and management of the database.
- integrate and collate tag returns reported by anglers and community groups.
The database delivered on objectives 1-7. It was later realised that the eighth objective would require significant funding to achieve, though the database retained the capacity to integrate anglers tag returns that are recorded on a separate Access database.
A preliminary assessment of the project was conducted by the Murray River Fishway Assessment team (tri-state team) which found the foundations of a functioning database had been provided (despite more work being required). The team felt that there was the capacity to assess fishway functionality, in addition to improving the management of fish species within the MDB. Examples of the types of information that can be generated were provided by the tri-state team, however detailed interpretation was restricted because of a number of rectifiable issues with the database. It was also suggested that a significant injection of funding was required to improve user friendliness, and to upgrade the field PIT reader hardware installed.
Implications for native fish
PIT tag data collected as part of a large-scale monitoring system can provide multi-scale data relating to native fish including:
- rehabilitation of fish passage (by providing data on upstream and downstream migrations);
- return to large-scale cyclic migrations (through distance-based queries);
- management of environmental flows (by plotting time-scale data against flow and other water quality variables);
- improved management of introduced species; and
- assessment of fishway performances.
Hindell, J. and Jones, M. (2011) A centralised management system for passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag data in the Murray-Darling Basin. Project MD758. Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research Technical Report Series No. 2011/102. Department of Sustainability and Environment, Heidelberg, Victoria.
Ryan, M. (2008). Technology review of fish PIT Tag data collection system. Matt Ryan Consulting. Report for the Department of Sustainability and Environment.
Smyth, B. & Nebel, S. (2013) Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) Tags in the Study of Animal Movement. Nature Education Knowledge 4(3):3