Marine robots launched to track fish populations
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Marine robots launched to track fish populations

Yachting & Boating World: Three drones were launched from Plymouth on Tuesday to track fish in and gather data on oceans around UK.


Three marine robots have been launched to track fish populations and gather ocean data in and around new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The drones, which were launched in Plymouth on Tuesday by scientists from the Marine Biological Association and engineers from the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), aim to learn how fish use MPAs on a day-to-day basis.

Using acoustic ‘pingers’, fish species such as plaice and sole will be tracked at sea by the robots. Assisting them in their data collection will be fixed seabed listening stations.

The three autonomous vehicles, AutoNaut, C-Enduro and the SV3 Waveglider will all be carrying a range of sensors to collect additional data on the physical properties of the ocean, such as water temperature and salinity.

Onboard GoPro cameras will also capture valuable photographs and video footage of seabirds and other marine wildlife. Project leader Dr Stephen Cotterell, said: “This technology will give us a new dimension in our understanding of fish movements, residency and migrations in and around the marine protected areas off Plymouth.

“Understanding how fish use MPAs will be vital in understanding the value of these management tools to conserve fish stocks. One of the aims of the EU Marine Strategy Framework is achieving sustainable fisheries, through and ecologically coherent network of MPAs. We just don’t know enough yet about how effective MPAs are for mobile species. With this work we aim to get somewhere closer.”

This week’s launch is the second phase of the pioneering project, which previously saw five marine robots travel hundreds of kilometres off the Isles of Scilly to collect data about oceans.

Head of the NOC’s Marine Autonomous Robotics Systems group Dr Maaten Furlong, said: “This second phase builds on the success of phase one and allows us to test the vehicle fleer in a coastal waters. “Using autonomous surface vehicles in combination with fixed seabed assets significantly enhances the scientific value of the system.”

The two-phase project is the largest deployment of marine autonomous systems ever seen in the UK and will provide important information about the shelf seas, marine life and the scope for autonomous vehicles in future research projects.

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