The ATAP covers thousands of kilometres of the Southern African coast. Scientists are able to use this collaborative array to paint a picture of how fish and shark species behave along the coastline to better manage and protect them in the future.
To assist researchers who are investigating the movements and migrations of marine and estuarine fish, mammals and birds using acoustic telemetry. The platform comprises a network of strategically placed acoustic receivers (listening stations) to detect acoustically tagged animals and enable researchers to monitor their movements and migrations.
South Africa is a biodiversity hotspot boasting a high degree of endemic marine species that are biogeographically restricted by the presence of two contrasting boundary currents. The Acoustic Tracking Array Platform (ATAP) provides a fantastic opportunity to study multiple-year migration patterns and shed light of the possible effects of climate change.
The ATAP will significantly enhance the collection of data – both presence and absence data – from all acoustically tagged animals. Several significant projects are currently underway and include a suite of species, ranging from small estuarine resident fish (e.g., Cape stumpnose) to important migratory fish species (e.g., leervis) and large apex predators (e.g., white sharks). Most of these studies have been spatially restricted due to poor acoustic coverage at a regional and national level.
The main habitats that will be covered by the ATAP receiver network include estuaries (20 permanently open systems) spanning approximately 2,000 kilometres of coastline, major embayments (False Bay, Mossel Bay and Algoa Bay) and other key monitoring sites within the inshore coastal environment along the eastern seaboard of South Africa (e.g., Port Alfred, Port St Johns, Umkomaas and Kosi Bay). The research questions being addressed are diverse and include studies of fish migration, movement behaviour, spatial use patterns, physiology, fisheries management and conservation.
The aims and objectives of this project are to:
Since the 1970’s scientists have been using satellite tags to track wildlife, but with GSM technology- the same system that cell phones use- there may be a better, more accurate and more cost effective solution especially for elusive marine animals. Guilia is working on it.
Bimini in the Bahamas is home to large populations of sharks. Mariana will observe whether the presence of those sharks affects how turtles use their habitat and whether more turtles means more sharks. Bimini is undergoing intensive development for tourism, so understanding how animals use their space is critical for their conservation.