I was telling you recently how satellites are used to track pigeons and koalas. Now, CIO Magazine reports that computer tags are used to track Pacific coast salmon. The salmon have two homes, the river home and the ocean one, largely unknown. So, as part of the Pacific Ocean Salmon Tracking (POST) project, computer chips called acoustic tags have been implanted into 1,200 young salmon. And receivers have been placed on more than 120 kilometers of seabed around Vancouver Island. When a tagged fish passed near a listening station, the tag emits its serial number and data such as position, speed and direction is collected by the receiver. With this data, it will be possible to improve the sustainable use of Pacific salmon resources.
Here are some details about the current status of the project.
Where salmon swim once they've hatched -- their exact path up the Pacific Northwest coastline to Alaska -- is a question that's long puzzled scientists working to better manage North American fishing stocks. Now David Welch, a British Columbia-based marine biologist, is using tiny computers and data retrieval technology to reveal the fish's secret migratory lives.
As part of the Pacific Ocean Salmon Tracking (POST) project, Welch has surgically implanted tiny computer chips into the body cavities of roughly 1,200 salmon. These computer chips, called acoustic tags, transmit individual serial numbers that are detected by receivers that sit on the seabed. When a tagged fish passes within range of a receiver, the device records information on the direction, speed and timing of the salmon's movements. Once boats retrieve these receivers from the water's depths via a tracking system and retrieval mechanism, scientists can reconstruct and examine the data.
||Here is a photograph of the acoustic tags implanted into a young salmon, called a "smolt" (Credit: David Welch).|
A unique blend of fish and chips isn't all that renders Welch's investigation innovative. By midsummer, Welch will have placed receivers along 120 kilometers of seabed, stretching from the Columbia River in Washington up toward the northern Gulf of Alaska. The POST project, with $6.2 million in funding in the next two years from foundations and industry, is a geographically ambitious undertaking that has never before been attempted.
||Here is a map showing the location of the proposed seabed listening lines for measuring the movements of juvenile salmon in and out of the Strait of Georgia. (Credit: POST).|
The breadth of data Welch collects will ultimately hinge on how successfully he retrieves his receivers from the bottom of the ocean in the early fall. But if Welch's recent pilot projects are any indication, the secret lives of salmon will soon surface.
For more information about the POST project, here are some links to its timeline and what will be the future applications and the technology used. There is even a short movie, "Where do the salmon go?" (Flash format).
Sources: Cindy Waxer, CIO Magazine, August 1, 2004 Issue; POST website