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PIT Tag Information Systems (PTAGIS)
PIT Tag Information Systems (PTAGIS)

The PIT Tag Information System (PTAGIS), is a data collection, distribution, and coordination project. The fundamental purpose of PTAGIS is to monitor the migratory habits of fish in migrating through the dams that comprise the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) by collecting and distributing data via electronic Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags.


The PIT tag is an electronic tag measuring 12 mm long by 2.1 mm in diameter. It can be coded with one of 35 billion unique codes. The tag can be automatically detected and decoded in situ – eliminating the need to sacrifice, anesthetize, handle, or restrain fish during data retrieval. The PIT tag was developed as a research and management tool for monitoring the movement of juvenile and adult salmonids in the Columbia River Basin. Fish injected with this tag can be automatically recognized by detecting/recording devices strategically located within collection facilities at hydroelectric dams.

Laboratory studies with juvenile Chinook salmon and steelhead show no adverse effect of the tag on growth or survival. The established tag stays in a consistent location in the fish body cavity. Behavioral tests show no significant effect of the tag on opercular rate, tail beat frequency, stamina, or post-fatigue survival in juvenile steelhead. Active swimming does not affect tag retention.

When a fish is tagged, all related information about the tagging event and the individual fish is captured and entered into a central database. This information includes its PIT tag number, tagging location, organization responsible for the tagging, species, run, weight, length, wild or hatchery type, marks and general health. Once tagged, the fish is then released into the river system. This fish can be electronically identified and monitored indefinitely.

As the tagged fish migrates, it has the opportunity to pass through electronic interrogation antennas located in juvenile bypass facilities at many of the dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. This electronic equipment automatically detects the PIT tag code, and records its time and location. This information is forwarded to the central database and is permanently coupled with its previous tagging information as the fish makes its way to the Pacific Ocean.

When the tagged adult fish returns to the Columbia River system to spawn, the fish is again automatically detected at the permanent adult detection sites as it travels up-river. These data detections are added to the previous information about that individual fish in the database and provides additional data on its history and migration.

Partners & Funding

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) established a cooperative program in 1983 to evaluate the technical and biological feasibility of the PIT tag. This early effort has now evolved into a major research tool in the Columbia River Basin under the BPA program. Over 12 million fish have been tagged and monitored since 1987.

Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission has joined with the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority (CBFWA) in establishing a steering committee to oversee the technical and policy issues involved with research organizations using the tag within the Columbia River Basin.

Learn More

Visit the PIT Tag Information Systems (PTAGIS) Program website at: www.ptagis.org.

For more information, contact John Tenney, PTAGIS Senior Software Engineer, by email to jtenney@psmfc.org, or call 503.595.3100.

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