Hokkaido scientist to join 10-year global Census of Marine Life study

by Tetsuji Ida

Kyodo

Hiroshi Ueda of Hokkaido University will take part in an international research project put together by a group of North American and European scientists to clarify the behavior and ecology of small and large marine creatures, including whales.

The marine tracking network will be carried out as part of a 10-year Census of Marine Life project that has been put forward by the United Nations and other bodies to survey living things in the seas by 2010.

Ueda and his group plan to examine migratory routes of tuna in the Northwestern Pacific centering on the coast of Hokkaido.

Ronald O’Dor of the census of oceanic creatures said the unique feature of the research plan this time is the use of a tiny transmitter.

The cylindrical transmitter measuring a few centimeters long and 7 to 12 mm in diameter was developed by a group of scientists, including those at Vancouver Aquarium in Canada and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It contains batteries and transmitting devices.

Such transmitters will be embedded in anesthetized fish. A large number of radio receivers will be installed like curtains on the seabed in coastal waters and catch data released by fish that will tell their locations.

The group that developed the transmitters is trying to improve the device to last up to 20 years, inserting it in young tuna and sturgeon.

Transmitters were implanted in about 2,700 tuna last year and helped scientists shed light on migration routes in coastal waters of Canada and the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

The device also reportedly succeeded in tracking sturgeon in California waters and giant Pacific octopuses along the shore of Uchiura Bay, also known as Funka Wan, in southwestern Hokkaido.

O’Dor and his group have called on scientists in a number of countries to join the research project over the next six years to track and learn behavior of a large number of creatures.

Those asked to take part include U.S. scientists who are involved in a project to place transmitters in seals, tuna and whales and track them by satellite.

He said the results of the project will be offered to governments so they will be able to refer to them in the management of fisheries resources and in the creation of protective sea areas.

He also said the outcome of the project will contribute to the protection of the ecological system of the seas.

Ueda and his group have developed a small, unmanned boat equipped with global positioning system antennas to chase transmitter-carrying fish. They plan to have the boat simultaneously observe the volume of chlorophyll and seawater temperatures for use in checking tuna migration routes in coastal areas of Hokkaido.