Performance and reliability of active acoustic biotelemetry to best track marine pelagic species in temperate coastal waters
Acoustic tracking is a commonly used method to study the movement ecology of marine species. The characteristics of the data collected are not simply functions of the location of the tagged animal as they are also influenced by the method of data collection and its sampling frequency. In particular, since the data are acoustically driven, the significance of any result hinges not only on the accuracy of the equipment but also on the reliability of the information received. While passive acoustic telemetry requires an evaluation of the detection efficiency of receivers moored in different habitats (or sites) to obtain reliable data, active acoustic telemetry requires more field-related information on how to best track tagged animals without impacting on their natural behaviour. This study aimed to evaluate the reliability of active acoustic telemetry data in a temperate coastal environment. This was achieved by conducting a series of field experiments to assess (i) the use of signal strength-to-infer distance to the tracked animal under different tracking conditions, (ii) what signal strength threshold can be used to obtain reliable bio-telemetered data, (iii) whether the behaviour of a tracked animal would be a main concern in terms of data reliability, and (iv) the best filtering option to reduce the data to be analysed. The findings yielded a signal strength-to-distance relationship to improve the accuracy of the positional fixes of actively tracked animals, which can be used as a practical reference for future tracking studies on pelagic species in temperate coastal environments.
Oceans Research provided logistic and field support for the research. The South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity and PADI Aware provided funds for the transmitters. The White Shark Trust helped in financing the tracking support vessel. Dylan Irion and Rob Lewis helped in the field work. VEMCO, and in particular Dana Allen, made it possible to produce the β version of the muscle transmitters.
Funding for this research was provided by the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB), VEMCO, the PADI Project AWARE, Avnic-Cameogroup-Garmin, Evolushark, GIMS (Pty) Ltd., and the White Shark Trust.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they had no conflict of interest during the duration of the study. Oceans Research is, at the moment, the official distributor of VEMCO products in Africa.
All applicable international, national, and institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutions at which the studies were conducted. Furthermore, the tagging and tracking of white sharks was authorised by the South African Department of Environmental Affairs: permit RES2009 to RES2012.
- Brill RW, Block BA, Boggs CH, Bigelow KA, Freund EV, Marcinek DJ (1999) Horizontal movements and depth distribution of large adult yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) near the Hawaiian Islands, recorded using ultrasonic telemetry: implications for the physiological ecology of pelagic fishes. Mar Biol 133(3):395–408CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Carey FG, Kanwisher JW, Brazier O, Gabrielson G, Casey JG, Pratt Jr HL (1982) Temperature and activities of a white shark, Carcharodon carcharias. Copeia 254–260Google Scholar
- Caruthers JW (1977) Fundamentals of marine acoustics. Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
- Gennari E (2015) Thermal physiology and behavioural ecology of the white shark, Carcharodon carcharias. PhD Dissertation, Rhodes University, GrahamstownGoogle Scholar
- Gruber SH, Nelson DR, Morrisey JF (1988) Patterns of activity and space utilisation of lemon sharks in a shallow Bahamian lagoon. Bull Mar Sci 43(1):61–76Google Scholar
- Heupel MR, Webber DM (2012) Trends in acoustic tracking: where are the fish going and how will we follow them. Am Fish Soc Symp 76:219–231Google Scholar
- Heupel MR, Simpfendorfer C, Lowe C (2005) Passive acoustic telemetry technology: current applications and future directions. In: Results of the VR2 workshop held on Catalina IslandGoogle Scholar
- Holland KM, Brill R, Ferguson S, Chang R, Yost R (1985) A small vessel technique for tracking pelagic fish. Mar Fish Rev 47(4):26–32Google Scholar
- Huveneers C, Simpfendorfer CA, Kim S, Semmens JM, Hobday AJ, Pederson H, Stieglitz T, Vallee R, Webber D, Heupel MR, Peddemors V, Harcourt RG (2016) The influence of environmental parameters on the performance and detection range of acoustic receivers. Methods Ecol Evol. https://doi.org/10.1111/2041-210X.12520 Google Scholar
- Kock A, Johnson R, Bester MN, Compagno L, Cliff G, Dudley S, Gennari E, Griffiths CL, Kotze D, Laroche K, Meyer MA, Oosthuizen WH, Swanson S (2006) White shark abundance: not a causative factor in numbers of shark bite incidents. In: Finding a balance—white shark conservation and recreational safety in the inshore waters of Cape Town, South Africa. WWF South Africa Report Series—2006/Marine/001, pp 1–19Google Scholar
- Medwin H, Clay CS (1997) Fundamentals of acoustical oceanography. Academic, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Pincock DG, Voegeli FA (2002) Quick course in underwater telemetry systems. VEMCO Limited, Shad BayGoogle Scholar
- QGIS Development Team (2012) QGIS geographic information system. Open source geospatial foundation. http://qgis.osgeo.org
- R Development Core Team (2014) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna. http://www.R-project.org
- Schaller SY, Chabot CC, Watson WH (2010) Seasonal movements of American horseshoe crabs Limulus polyphemus in the Great Bay Estuary, New Hampshire (USA). Curr Zool 56(5):587–598Google Scholar
- Sciarrotta TC, Nelson DR (1977) Diel behaviour of the blue shark near Santa Catalina Island, California. Fish Bull 75:519–528Google Scholar
- Sundström LF, Gruber SH, Clermont SM, Correia JPS, de Marignac JRC, Morrisey JF, Lowrance CR, Thomassen L, Oliveira MT (2001) Review of elasmobranch behavioural studies using ultrasonic telemetry with special reference to the lemon shark around Bimini Islands, Bahamas. Environ Biol Fish 60:225–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Taylor JR (1997) An introduction to error analysis: the study of uncertainties in physical measurements. University Science Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Voegeli FA, Smale MJ, Webber DM, Andrade Y, O’Dor RK (2001) Ultrasonic telemetry, tracking and automated monitoring technology for sharks. The behavior and sensory biology of elasmobranch fishes: an anthology in memory of Donald Richard Nelson 200. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 267–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar