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$1 Million System To Track Fish Migrations


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$1 million system to track fish migrations

SCIENCE will gain new insights into the size and behaviour of coastal fish populations with a $1 million undersea tracking system due to start operation next year.

The system, to be located off NSW and Western Australia, will used acoustic "curtains" to track the movement of tagged aquatic life.

Macquarie University Associate Professor Rob Harcourt, chief scientist on the project, said the system will also allow researchers to gather vital information about climate change-related effects such as rising ocean temperatures.

"Because much of our marine life - including protected and endangered species like the southern right whale and the great white shark - travel vast distances each year, it is very difficult to collect data on fundamental aspects of their lives," he said.

The monitoring system uses acoustic receivers placed at 1km intervals in lines across the coastal shelf.

When fish tagged with an individual chip pass through the acoustic curtains created by the receivers, information is captured.

Professor Harcourt said the network would allow research projects that were not possible before.

"There are lots of long-range movements of things like seals you can track with satellite transmitters but you can't satellite track a fish under the surface," he said.

Monitoring points will be set up on the ocean floor off NSW - with Smoky Cape a possible location - and WA, where Ningaloo Reef has been shortlisted.

Australia will also become part of a global marine survey system known as the ocean tracking network.

The OTN is currently under development, using similar acoustic technology to track marine life in five oceans and around all continents.

"Many of our most pressing environmental concerns - from over- fishing and changing migration patterns to rising ocean temperatures - are global in nature," Professor Harcourt said.

"It's therefore essential that scientists all round the world can receive our data via a central database."

Work on placing the Australian receivers is expected to start in the second half of next year.

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