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Census of Marine Life program tracking animals on Pacific continental shelf

Contributing results for the past 10 years, the Vancouver Aquarium's Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking (POST) Program is one of 17 projects that make up the global Census of Marine Lifeand is the only project focusing on animals living on the continental shelf.

POST uses sound to track marine animals along the west coast of North America. Using hundreds of acoustic receivers (think of ears with computer hard drives attached) anchored to the sea floor, POST maintains listening lines running perpendicular to the coast, from shore to the edge of the continental shelf.

The acoustic receivers record passing animals carrying acoustic tags, each one sending out a signal audible to the receivers. Because every acoustic tag makes its own unique sound, each tagged animal can be precisely identified when a receiver hears it. By knowing where a receiver is and when it heard a tag, POST knows exactly where each tagged animal has travelled and when.

"POST has allowed researchers to accurately map epic journeys of juvenile salmon, tracked for months as they travel from their home rivers to as far as Alaska," said Jim Bolger, executive director of Vancouver Aquarium's POST Program. "This ground-breaking use of technology has also contributed to positive changes in the management of threatened fish stocks by enabling researchers to accurately monitor patterns of behaviour. Information from POST helps scientists better understand and protect coastal waters where species at risk travel."

The POST system allows scientists to track individual animals over years, without the need to recapture them to gain new information about movement and behavior. Using POST to track nearly 16,000 individuals from a variety of species over the decade-long Census, scientists from government agencies, universities and even community groups have gained new knowledge about life on the shelf.

Shelves are relatively shallow submerged plateaus encircling every continent and can be narrow or wide. POST explores how marine animals move and use these productive ocean areas and is helping scientists to investigate where some animals may be dying.

The Census is a collaborative effort involving more than 2,000 scientists from over 80 countries, working in every ocean realm to catalogue the distribution, diversity and abundance of marine life. Given 10 years to identify and describe as many animals as possible living in the world's vast ocean, an impressive baseline is being captured and will be released on October 4.


Contact: Samantha Kent
Census of Marine Life

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