A marine species tracking system administered by the Vancouver Aquarium is slated to close down after 12 years of operation. The aquarium’s Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking program will close June 29, 2012, due to a lack of research funding. The program tracked the movements of various marine animals along the west coast of North America. The tracking program involved placing acoustic receivers in a row on the ocean floor that formed listening lines up to 50 kilometers long. Scientists would then tag marine species and track their movements as they swam through the field of listening lines. The tags are capable of monitoring water salinity, temperature and the speed of the tagged animals, as well as the time they die.
Animals that could be tagged included a variety of fish species, invertebrates and marine mammals. One animal the program tracked is the green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris), a fish that was once thought to stay near the California coast. The program found that they actually travel to the northern end of Vancouver Island each fall. The program also tracked movements of a hatchery chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) smolt that swam to southeast Alaska from the Columbia River. During its 12 years in operation, POST tracked 18 species through 3,000 kilometers of receiver lines placed in Alaska, British Columbia, and California.
“It’s sad to see it fold,” said John Nightingale, president and CEO of the Vancouver Aquarium. “The Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking program was an encouraging model for international collaboration leading to new discoveries and had potential for better management of important fish stocks. We are hoping that some of our regional partners will be able to help keep the network of receivers in place and support researchers seeking to better understand marine life along the coast.”
The program was initially sponsored by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Census of Marine Life. It requires an annual budget of around $1.5 million plus $500,000 for maintenance and upgrades every five years.