SALEM--The AutoFish System is helping Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff mark and tag fish faster and more effectively.

The system uses advanced technology to sort and process Pacific salmon and steelhead in a hatchery setting. It is a cost effective way to handle juvenile fish rapidly without the use of anesthetic and minimizing human contact.

"This system is more consistent and reliable than the manual trailer," said Marion Forks Hatchery Manager Greg Grenbemer. "It works perfectly for the size of fish we are marking and tagging here at the hatchery."

When programmed and monitored, the AFS consistently achieves more precise fin clips and accurate and harmless Coded Wire tag placement in the cartilage tissue of the salmon snout. The system is capable of processing fish at a substantially higher rate than is possible with the manual marking method.

Every year, more than 25 million fish are marked by ODFW staff with most of the marking activities occurring during the spring season.  The deployment of the AFS is essential to meet this high volume demand.

"Many hatcheries are located in remote areas with limited availability of temporary workers, which makes it difficult to implement large scale fish marking operations," said Christine Mallette, assistant propagation program manager. "The AFS is helping to fill that void."

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife currently operates four AFS units to tag and mark juvenile salmon and trout at fish hatcheries throughout the state. The $1 million AFS was federally funded. The technology enables ODFW to comply with federal mandates to mass mark hatchery fish that are released into the Columbia River Basin and into coastal streams from facilities receiving federal funding.

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