Transforming our understanding of the oceans by developing global data standards and a paradigm of collaborative research and data sharing, changing how scientists, communities and policy-makers in decision-making processes interact, as well as facilitating the use and development of novel technology
Commercial and First Nations Fisheries
Most species of Pacific salmon migrate to the open ocean only once in their lives. They travel from inland lakes and streams far into the Bering Sea before returning to their natal spawning grounds. In preparation for migration, male salmon undergo extreme physical changes, giving them their unique hook-shaped lower jaw, humped back and iconic red hues.
A cultural symbol, Pacific salmon are heavily targeted by commercial and recreational fisheries. In partnership with DFO, Indigenous peoples, ENGOs and fishers, OTN works to generate movement data, transforming fisheries management approaches and boosting conservation of Pacific salmon in British Columbia.
OTN tags a bull trout on Canada’s Pacific coast. Bull trout predation may account for low river survival rates in salmon smolts.
Photograph by Nathan Furey
Fitbits for Animals
Accelerometry research is used to identify specific animal behaviours like resting, feeding, and escape, and to monitor growth—essential information for advancing informed management of wild populations as rising water temperatures affect fishes’ growth rates.
How did Maritime bioLoggers get started?
It began in 2010 as part of the OTN accelerometry project while developing a tag to measure fish growth rate. Growth rate is a key factor in determining the stock size of fisheries, and the information is therefore important for sustainable management. We soon realized researchers were interested in using these types of tags not only to track fish growth, but also to study movement and predation, so my colleague Andre Bezanson and I decided to start Maritime bioLoggers.
Initially, we wanted to provide the technology as an open-source project, but realized that the expertise required to build the sensors was beyond the capacity of most research groups. We started Maritime bioLoggers after realizing there was no product on the market that would provide the kind of data that our technology delivers.
Describe an exciting OTN collaboration involving Maritime bioLoggers.
I’m most pleased with the collaboration between Maritime bioLoggers, the OTN accelerometry project and the seal bioprobe project, which allowed us to deploy many of our movement tags on seals in the wild for the first time. The aim was to look at fine-scale movements to document seals’ feeding behaviour. This enabled us to test the technology and deliver data that provided insights into the seals’ hunting patterns.
How is your work impacting OTN studies?
The development of the technology has provided opportunities to branch out and work with many OTN projects as well as marine tracking groups globally, adding higher-resolution data to capture a more precise picture of what animals are doing underwater.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned from OTN accelerometry studies so far?
It’s difficult to point out a single result from all the projects that I have been involved in, but our discoveries on the dynamics of animal locomotion (methods of moving from point A to point B) in the wild are most memorable. We found that Pacific halibut can accelerate twice as fast as a space shuttle launching into orbit! We also discovered that grey seals will dive down to 100 metres to rest—we are now beginning to understand the energetic requirements of these unexpected movements.
What’s your most memorable experience as part of OTN research?
I had many memorable experiences in the field, such as tagging halibut in Alaska and going to the high Arctic, and seeing the development of my prototype deployed and recovered successfully in various places around the world. At the top of my list was meeting the German chancellor, Dr. Angela Merkel, during her tour of Dalhousie and OTN.
Franziska Broell • HOMETOWN: Augsburg, Germany • Postdoctoral Scholar and CEO of Maritime bioLoggers
Photograph by dale wilson, CFI
Emerging Arctic Fisheries
Arctic fisheries provide an important economic boost to northern communities and sustain traditional livelihoods. Despite the region’s dependence on the ocean, little scientific data has been collected on the life cycles of culturally and commercially valuable species such as Greenland shark, Arctic cod, Arctic sculpin and many marine mammals.
While Greenland halibut are the primary commercial species in Cumberland Sound, Nunavut, their habitat and movements largely remain a mystery. OTN telemetry studies revealed distinct and predictable seasonal movement patterns of Greenland halibut, which brought them from one fishery zone to another. This key piece of information transformed management in the area, ensuring that Inuit harvesters received fair and just access to the resource, as well as assisting with the drafting of sustainable fishery plans for the region.
OTN Arctic investigators prepare to tag a juvenile Greenland shark in the Canadian Arctic.
Photograph by Stephen Fields