Reconstructing the movements of free-ranging demersal Fish in the North Sea: a data-matching and simulation method

Author: Righton, D., Mills, C.M.
Date Published: January 2007

Marine Biology 153 (4)

Demersal fish cannot be readily tracked using data loggers that provide satellite-based or light-based geolocation. Moreover, fish that are highly mobile within the water column cannot readily be located with other methods, such as the tidal location method (TLM). As an alternative, we describe a process that provides estimates of geographic location by simulating movement paths through geographic locations that match temperature and depth data recorded by data loggers.

Depths and temperatures recorded by data loggers were compared with a North Sea temperature and depth database to identify all locations with matching data. A movement rate filter was then applied to eliminate spurious locations and simulations of possible movement paths through the remaining positions were used to generate estimates of the likelihood of a particular location having been occupied. The performance of the technique was assessed by reconstructing movement paths of artificial migrations and by using depth and temperature data collected at known locations in the North Sea. Estimates of the positional accuracy and error were comparable to the North Sea TLM. Reconstructions of the migrations of cod tagged and released in the North Sea were successfully achieved with the method. This method has application in defining the movements and migrations of commercial species in any sea area where databases of commonly measured environmental variables are available.