News / Science & Technology

Fish 'Cell Phones' Track Marine Life

Technology is sounding board for migrating species from Alaska to Mexico

Researchers tag a white sturgeon on the Fraser River in British Columbia, Canada.
Researchers tag a white sturgeon on the Fraser River in British Columbia, Canada.

Multimedia

Audio
Rosanne Skirble

A unique array of underwater listening devices stretches 3,000 kilometers along the west coast of North America to track marine life along the continental shelf.

"It's like giving fish a cell phone," says Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking (POST) executive director Jim Bolger, whose network is part of a global project called the Census of Marine Life, an on-going effort to assess the diversity and abundance of life in the world's oceans.

Tiny transmitters

POST has strategically placed over 450 hydrophones on the sea floor.

Fish tagged with tiny transmitters emit a special signal when they pass by one of the hydrophone receivers. Rows of these small receivers form listening lines perpendicular to the shore, at intervals of about 800 meters. Bolger says the lines, which can run 50 kilometers in length, create a grid that captures fish movement across the ocean never before available.

POST hopes to have listening lines deployed from shore to the edge of the continental shelf from the Bering Sea in Alaska south to Mexico.
POST hopes to have listening lines deployed from shore to the edge of the continental shelf from the Bering Sea in Alaska south to Mexico.

"If an animal passes through one line, we hear it, and if it passes through the next line we know it's continuing and which direction it's moving in and about how fast. If it doesn't show up at the next line of receivers, either it's taken up residency in between or maybe it's died."  

Over the last six years POST has followed some 16,000 tagged marine animals, including 18 different species from salmon the size of a hotdog to great white sharks.

Bolger says a couple of times each year, POST collects the underwater data from each acoustic receiver and relays it to a ship on the surface.

Better protection for endangered species

POST recently published the first in a series of studies from its telemetry data with some unexpected findings. The endangered California sturgeon, for example, was tracked migrating north over vast distances in the winter, giving wildlife managers clues to better protect it.

Prince William Sound Science Center's Scott Pegau deploys an acoustic receiver for a new POST line in Port Gravina, Alaska.
Prince William Sound Science Center's Scott Pegau deploys an acoustic receiver for a new POST line in Port Gravina, Alaska.

Other research challenges the theory that more salmon die in dammed waterways than wild rivers. The paper compares the salmon life cycle in the heavily dammed Columbia River with that of the Fraser River in Southern British Columbia that has no dams. Bolger says the POST data showed that the survival was the same in both groups.

"And so, what does that really mean?  I think the jury is still out on that. But the fact that there is comparable survival really makes you wonder as to what are the factors that are affecting the health of these populations in both major rivers."

Bolger says the POST array can serve as a baseline for movement of various species as ocean conditions change over time in response to climate change. "We can start to really see how the animals that live in these oceans are adapting to climate changes or not adapting. And we can do a better job of sustaining the life that is here."

All POST data and research derived from that data become part of the public record and are available for free online. Bolger says the project opens a new window on the sea and invites anyone interested in exploring the view to support the project by purchasing a radio tag and following a tagged fish on the POST Census of Marine Life website.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid