Project

The Acoustic Tracking Array Platform

Species
  • Other species
  • Rays & Skates
  • Sharks
Years funded
  • 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
Status
  • Active
Project type
  • Research
Description

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.

The Acoustic Tracking Array Platform

Paul Cowley

Project leader
About the project leader
As a youngster I always knew that I wanted to study fish and become an ichthyologist. My love for fish stemmed from my passion for fishing and trying to understand more about the mysterious underwater lives of these biologically diverse creatures. Not knowing what fish were doing when I couldn’t catch them led me to take a particular interest in studying their behaviour and movement ecology.As an undergraduate I never missed an opportunity to participate in research field trips and help postgraduate students with their projects. I always looked for vacation jobs that would keep me close to nature and,...
PROJECT LOCATION : South African coastline
All news about this project
By Paul Cowley, Taryn Murray & Matt Parkinson, 8th November 2018
The tale of a ‘home-loving’ spotted grunter
Researchers from the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) have been studying the movement behaviour of spotted grunter since 2004, with more than 120 individuals having been tagged with acoustic transmitters to date. The research initially focussed on juveniles in a single estuary and…
By Taryn Murray, Matt Parkinson & Paul Cowley, 16th October 2018
The stingray tales
Chondrichthyans, including rays, evolved at least 420 million years ago. Despite them being one of the most speciose lineages of predators on the planet, overfishing and habitat degradation have profoundly altered populations of many species. The relative extinction risk of this group was assessed using…
By Taryn Murray, Matt Parkinson & Paul Cowley, 14th September 2018
Hovering hammerheads
Hammerhead sharks are undoubtedly amongst the most recognisable species of shark on the planet. This group consists of nine species which are widespread in temperate and tropical seas, and includes the great hammerhead (EN)*, scalloped hammerhead (EN), smooth hammerhead (VU), smalleye hammerhead (VU), Carolina hammerhead…
By Taryn Murray, Matt Parkinson & Paul Cowley, 2nd August 2018
Keeping track of marine life: the Acoustic Tracking Array Platform
South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity Over a decade ago, a small project studying the habitat use and movements of spotted grunter Pomadasys commersonnii in the Great Fish Estuary using acoustic telemetry was initiated. Little were we to know that this project would later develop…
By Paul Cowley, 10th April 2015
ATAP in southern Africa – the first three years
I tagged my first fish with an acoustic transmitter more than 10 years ago and since then have become addicted to the prospect of learning more not only about where and when fish move, but also about the drivers that make them move and adopt…
Project details

The Acoustic Tracking Array Platform (ATAP): a nationwide marine science platform

Key objective

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.

Why is this important

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.

Background

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.

Aims & objectives

The aims and objectives of this project are to:

  • Deploy and maintain a comprehensive network of Vemco VR2W acoustic receivers in inshore coastal waters around South Africa.
  • Maintain a national registry of acoustic transmitter codes, and foster greater collaboration and data sharing among local biotelemetry researchers.
  • Provide a data management service and develop a national database of all acoustic telemetry data uploaded on the ATAP.
  • Promote biotelemetry research to maximise the benefits derived from the receiver network.