Since 1969, abalone populations have declined globally more than 50%, with many species now recognized as threatened, endangered, or species of concern. As monitoring progresses and restoration efforts evolve to include population supplementation, a reliable and robust method of tagging individual abalone is needed. Current abalone tagging methods are unsatisfactory, particularly for long-term studies as a result of tag loss, shell erosion, and encrustation. Observing tag numbers of cryptically positioned abalone can be difficult. To obviate these issues, we evaluated passive integrated transponders (PITs) as tags for pinto abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana kamtschatkana). We applied 9-mm PITs with cyanoacrylate glue to the dorsal exterior of the shell and to the ventral anterior of the shell, and by injection into the foot muscle of small adults (trial 1), and applied PITs to the ventral anterior of the shell of juveniles (trial 2). We subsequently tracked growth, survival, and tag retention over 15 mo in trial 1 and 6 mo in trial 2 in captivity. Among small adults (trial 1), differences in relative growth rate and survival were not significant. PIT retention by adhesion to the ventral anterior and dorsal exterior was significantly greater than injection into the foot in trial 1. Between controls and tagged animals in trial 2, differences in survival were not significant. There was no significant difference in ventral anterior tag retention between trial 1 and trial 2. Gluing PITs on the ventral anterior of the shell is a promising method because abalone quickly formed nacre over the tags, incorporating them into the shell, which does not appear to affect tag detection by the PIT reader. Trials are underway to characterize PIT retention in natural habitats, to determine tag longevity, and to use PITs to track adults reintroduced to aggregations.
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Vol. 31 • No. 3