Ocean microphones pick up fish chatter for DoE

| 09/09/2013

(CNS): Researchers at the Department of Environment are better able to track and monitor fish at spawning grounds, particularly the endangered Nassau grouper, using specialist equipment that allows scientists to listen in to fish chatter. With marine resources under increasing threat from development, fishing and climate change, the DoE needs as much data as possible and the new underwater gizmos allow the researchers to pick up the sounds of all fish at the sites where the devices, commonly known as hydrophones, are located, rather than just tagged fish, as has been the case in the past. Acting like microphones that pick up sounds that fish make, the technology converts it to audio signals and measurable data.

The equipment is being used by the DoE and its partners from the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) and the Darwin Initiative to identify fish species that visit designated spawning sites in the Cayman Islands. The data will determine which species, such as Nassau Grouper, and the number of fish that are frequenting the sites. DoE Marine Research Officer Bradley Johnson said the hydrophones provide stronger data than the methods used previously.

"We have been tracking fish species via in-water monitoring and acoustic tagging for many years now. However, this allowed us to only track fish that we tagged while they passed by the monitoring stations,” Johnson said. “With these hydrophones, we can now record underwater sounds at the spawning sites every five minutes. The data is more comprehensive and ultimately, they provide greater understanding ofwhich species use the sites, and their abundance.” 

Three hydrophones, which were funded by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, are deployed off Little Cayman. A fourth, located off in Grand Cayman, was purchased through the Darwin Initiative grant, funded through the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. This grant has allowed the DoE to research and monitor Cayman’s marine parks for more than 25 years. A fifth hydrophone will be installed off Cayman Brac within the next few months.

DoE officials said that all of the hydrophones will be deployed for six months at a time.

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  1. pmilburn says:

    Keep up the good work DOE and maybe ONE DAY someone will take notice of ALL the good work being done by all of you guys which I might add is for the BENEFIT of our future generations.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Fish chatter? I know there are a few grouper mouths around but didn't know they went deep diving too. Please decipher what they are sayingso we can know!

  3. Knot S Smart says:

    Not to make light of the research but I must say that I did not know about fish chatting…

    I wonder what they are saying to each other?

    Like:  'If you want to get the bait off the fisherman's line just gently nibble and dont swallow the whole bait, hook, line, and sinker"…

    In other words -swallow with care and  just dont be greedy…

  4. Anonymous says:

    Can I file an FOI request to find out if the fish are saying anything about me?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Can this equipment also be used to listen to what politicians are saying and doing privately? I applaud the fish effort, but we need to be watching our politicans very closely…

    • Solja Crab says:

      How did you manage to turn this into a political discussion? They are talking about fish for Petes sake! Una got these politicians on the brain 24/7, 365.