The Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking (POST) Project is an international non-profit program that maintains a large-scale system of sensors anchored in lines on the seafloor, stretching along the continental shelf and across inland waters of the Pacific Coast of North America. (See attachment.) These sensors form “curtains” to detect the passage of marine animals tagged with acoustic transmitters.
POST provides a research tool to investigators and serves as the focus for a much larger collaboration of scientists using acoustic tagging telemetry. POST maintains a major public database that securely stores over 8 million individual detections of more than 15,000 tags applied to over 17 species. The database can be searched and shared by anyone. Access to the POST array and data management services is free.
By fitting acoustic transmitters to fish, researchers are able to work with the POST array and data system to track movements, observe behaviour and estimate survival of individual animals or populations regionally and over large distances. The deliberate, yet flexible, deployment scheme of the receivers also allows users to design specific experiments which can potentially occur on basin to continental scales.
POST has been used successfully and extensively to track various salmon species/stocks as they migrate out to sea and return as adults, in both fresh and saltwater environments. Although there are lower limits on the size at which a fish can successfully be tagged, new, smaller tags are in development. Examples of recent research relevant to the issues before your Commission are:
- The use of POST to document specific migration routes and timing patterns, swimming speeds and both freshwater and marine survival of endangered Cultus Lake sockeye over four years (Welch et al 2009).
- Correlations of river temperature and physiological condition to the tracked behaviour and survival of returning Fraser sockeye (Crossin et al 2008; Farrell et al 2008).
- The combination of a variety of interdisciplinary techniques (ie. energetics, physiology, genomics, plasma biochemistry, etc) along with acoustic telemetry as an experimental means to link fitness, behaviour and mortality of individuals and groups of various Fraser sockeye populations (Cooke et al 2008; Crossin et al 2009(1); Crossin et al 2009(2); Crossin et al 2007).
POST is currently hosted by the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre. To date, private foundations have funded much of the development and operation of the program. This funding expires at the end of 2010 by which time the project needs to have secured long-term institutional/agency funding in Canada and the U.S. in order to maintain operation and maintenance of the array, support data management and continue providing open access to equipment and services.
Without government support it is unlikely that operation of the POST array can be sustained. Since data from the array can be directly useful to public agencies like Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Pacific Salmon Commission that are responsible for ensuring the long-term sustainability of Fraser sockeye and managing the fisheries that impact them, we urge your Commission to consider including in its report recommendations that the Government of Canada help ensure the array is maintained and extended.
As stated in Cooke, et al. (2007):
“Telemetry is a tool that has the potential to integrate research across disciplines and between the lab and field to advance the science of fish migration biology.”
POST representatives are available and willing to appear before the entire Commission or to meet with staff to provide more specific information and answer questions about the program. Additional information about POST, including a complete bibliography of publications based on POST data, is also available at www.postcoml.org.
References (in alpha order)
Cooke SJ, Hinch SG, Farrell AP, Patterson DA, Miller-Saunders, K, et al. (2008) Developing a mechanistic understanding of fish migrations by linking telemetry with physiology, behavior, genomics and experimental biology: an interdisciplinary case study on adult Fraser River sockeye salmon. Fisheries 33: 321-338.
Crossin GT, Hinch SG, Welch DW, Cooke SJ, Patterson DA, et al. (2009) Physiological profiles of sockeye salmon in the Northeast Pacific Ocean and the effects of exogenous GnRH and testosterone on rates of homeward migration. Marine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology 42: 89-109.
Crossin GT, Hinch SG, Cooke SJ, Cooperman MS, Patterson DA, et al. (2009) Mechanisms influencing the timing and success of reproductive migration in a capital-breeding, semelparous fish species: the sockeye salmon. Physiological & Biochemical Zoology 82: 635–652.
Crossin GT, Hinch SG, Cooke SJ, Welch DW, Patterson DA, et al. (2008) Exposure to high temperature influences in the behaviour, physiology, and survival of sockeye salmon during spawning migration. Canadian Journal of Zoology 86: 127-140.
Crossin GT, Hinch SG, Cooke SJ, Welch DW, Batten SD, et al. (2007) Behaviour and physiology of sockeye salmon homing through coastal waters to a natal river. Marine Biology 152: 905-918.
Farrell AP, Hinch SG, Cooke SJ, Patterson DA, Crossin GT, et al. (2008) Pacific salmon in hot water: applying metabolic scope models and biotemetry to predict the success of spawning migrations. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 81: 697-709.
Welch DW, Melnychuk MC, Rechisky E, Porter AD, Jacobs MC, et al. (2009) Freshwater and marine migration and survival of endangered Cultus Lake sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) smolts using POST, a large-scale acoustic telemetry array. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science 66: 736-750.