Creating a window on 'oceans in motion'

Scientists and resource managers could soon have a highly detailed picture of marine conditions and the migrations of fish and ocean animals throughout the world, according to international experts convening a landmark conference in Canada June 27-30.

Academics, scientists and technical experts at the meeting aim to throw open a large, vivid new global window on marine life by expanding worldwide the work of two pioneering North America-based programs that follow the movements of important species using electronic tags.

Convening at Dalhousie University, Halifax, the experts will announce a global collaboration, the Ocean Tracking Network, whose goal is to tag a vast range of ocean animals large and small with low-cost devices that vary in size from an almond to a AA battery and to follow them via an extensive international array of acoustic receivers on the sea floor.

Tags harmlessly collect and report information as an animal travels along, and can record water temperatures, salinity and even light conditions encountered at various depths and locations. Depending on the variety of tag used, the data is revealed when an animal is recaptured, surfaces (sending the archived data to a satellite) or passes one of many acoustic receivers arrayed on the ocean floor along the coastal shelf, akin to the process of scanning UPC codes at a store check-out.

"Every fish, every pelagic animal is a submarine and we have much to learn by electronically harvesting information about their movements," says Prof. Ron O'Dor, who leads the Dalhousie-based Ocean Tracking Network, the meeting host. "Today we know less about our marine life how these animals live, where they go than we know about the back side of the moon.

"Revolutionary new technologies open the path not just to smarter fisheries management, to better sea life conservation measures, and to the potential of abundant and sustainable stocks of commercial fish, they will also provid

Contact: Charles Crosby
Dalhousie University

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