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Subjective and objective assessment of fish sperm motility: when the technique and technicians matter

Fish sperm motility is nowadays considered the best sperm quality biomarker in fish, and can be evaluated both by subjective and computerized methods. With the aim to compare the precision and accuracy of both techniques, fish sperm samples were assessed by subjective methods and by a computer-assisted sperm analysis (CASA-Mot) system, and simultaneously by three different technicians with different degrees of expertise on the sperm quality analysis. Statistical dispersion parameters (CV, coefficient of variation; and RG, range) were estimated in order to determine the precision and accuracy of the techniques and the influence of laboratory staff on sperm motion assessments.

Concerning precision, there were not much significant differences between the technical support staff (high, medium, and low experimented technician), and statistical dispersion parameters were quite similar between them independent of the technique used and the sperm motility class analyzed. However, concerning accuracy, experimented technician reported subjective motility values very closed to the values provided by the CASA-Mot system, only 10 percentage points away from the data provided by a CASA-Mot system.

However, medium and low experimented technicians often overestimate the CASA-Mot values, and amplitudes up to 30 percentage points were detected in several sperm assessments. To sum up, both the technique (subjective or objective) and the technician (degree of expertise) became key factors in order to reach accurate motility estimations, so the use of both qualified staff and novel CASA-Mot systems seems to be a critical requirement for obtaining satisfying results in fish species with similar motility patterns.

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