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T&aking a Bite Out of Ocean Research

The Dalhousie-Headquartered Ocean Tracking Network (OTN) has reached a major milestone with the deployment of its first international tracking line, draped off the coast of Perth, Australia.

The Dalhousie-Headquartered Ocean Tracking Network (OTN) has reached a major milestone with the deployment of its first international tracking line.

Draped off the coast of Perth, Australia, the “listening curtain” of 53 acoustic receivers, each placed 800 metres apart, is ready to intercept tagged marine life, including southern bluefin tuna, great white sharks and whale sharks.

OTN’s Australian partners, the Australian Acoustic Tagging and Monitoring System (AATAMS) will maintain and operate the Perth Line, collecting data from the OTN receivers and sending it back to OTN headquarters for analysis.

“The Perth Line is a crucial international deployment”, says Mike Stokesbury, Senior Project Manager for OTN. “Through the collaboration between OTN, AATAMS and the Government of Western Australia, we have now added a wired continent to our Global System.”

The Perth line is the second “listening curtain” deployed by OTN partners. The first, the Halifax Line off the coast of Halifax, Nova Scotia, was deployed last summer and has provided OTN researchers with vital information about the migratory habits of Atlantic Salmon. The addition of a new curtain of receivers is the next step in ocean research.

“Being able to detect marine life movements thanks to these acoustic curtains deployed around the world and obtain the data through an international network will allow us to better understand large-scale migrations,” says Charlie Huveneers, technical officer with AATAMS. “There is still a lot to learn.”

While the primary goal of this collaboration is to learn more about marine life such as sharks, Australian officials hope to one day be able to use the OTN technology to potentially warn of shark encounters near Australian beaches. “The Australians are pioneering the use of acoustic telemetry for projects such as the shark monitoring system that could give early warning if a tagged Great White or Tiger shark nears a beach,” says Dr. Stokesbury.

OTN researchers plan to have all global curtains of receivers deployed by summer 2012. With the support of Dalhousie, Canadian, and international partners, they believe it will happen.

“Oceans are incredibly important, they drive our climate and provide the main sources of protein for many millions of humans,” says Dr. Stokesbury. He reiterated that OTN, for the first time, will paint a picture of the world's oceans, directly from the ocean floor, that will be housed publicly and permanently in Dalhousie's Faculty of Science.

Billy Comeau | Newswise Science News
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