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Acoustic Tracking of Fish Movements in Coral Reef Ecosystems


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Objectives

Stoplight parrotfish (Sparisoma viride) and damselfish on a reef in St. Croix, USVI October 2004

The CCMA Biogeography Branch has been conducting many integrated coral reef mapping and monitoring studies in US coral reef ecosystems to support targeted living marine resource research and management needs. This FY06 project is now under development to track and monitor the movement and residency time of fishes within and across habitats in the US Virgin Islands. The project will use an array of in-situ acoustic receivers to track fishes that have been implanted with acoustic “pinging” tags to define movements in both space and time. Currently, the project is underway in partnership with the National Park Service in St. John, USVI to track fish movements in the Virgin Islands National Park (VIIS) and the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument (VICR). The study objectives are:

  1. Examine the movement of fish species, among different trophic guilds and possessing a range of life history characteristics, inside and outside Virgin Islands National Park;
  2. Examine the movement of fish species, among different trophic guilds and possessing a range of life history characteristics, between inshore habitats within VIIS and offshore habitats within the VICR;
  3. Examine the habitat utilization patterns and movements of fishes over diel time periods at small and large spatial scales; and
  4. Examine the habitat utilization patterns and movements of fishes over time periods ranging from weeks to months to years.
White grunt (Haemulon plumierii) above a reef in St. Croix, USVI October 2004

Hypotheses to be tested

Ha1 : Movement patterns and residence times of fishes varies inside and outside of MPA depending on configuration of MPA design

Ha2 : Movement patterns and residence times of fishes vary depending on habitat type and proximity to adjacent habitats.

Ha3 : Species show specific ontogenetic movement patterns and habitat preferences depending on life-history phase and proximity to adjacent habitats.

Ha4 : Species show specific adult movement patterns and habitat preferences depending on life-history phase and proximity to adjacent habitats.

Project Summary

Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument (VICR), adjacent to Virgin Islands National Park (VIIS), was established by Executive Order in 2001, but resources within the monument are poorly documented and the degree of connectivity to VIIS is unknown. Whereas, VICR was established with full protection from resource exploitation, VIIS has incurred resource harvest by artisanal fishers as allowed in its enabling legislation since 1956. Large changes in local reef communities have occurred over the past several decades, in part due to overexploitation. The proposed investigation will allow for documentation of resource conditions of important taxa in VICR and VIIS, and for development of an understanding of the linkages between ecosystem components of the two NPS units. Potential benefits of the new monument (VICR) to adjacent areas are adult “spillover” into VIIS and adjacent harvested areas and enhanced reproductive output. The linkages between VICR and VIIS and among various habitats of both units will be investigated by studying the movements of fish species in different trophic groups. This information will allow resource managers to understand the movement of organisms into and out of the management units and to identify resources that may require greater (or lesser) management focus. Inventory and characterization of existing marine resources within VIIS has been progressing during recent years and has been initiated for VICR to establish current baseline conditions of fish and macro-invertebrates (e.g., species density and percent cover) and quality of benthic habitats. This investigation will provide data necessary for development of “ecosystem management” strategies for VIIS and VICR.

Figures 1 and 2 show potential array of acoustic receivers to track fish.

potential VR2 arrangement
Figure 1. Potential VR2 arrangement to examine fine-scale movement patterns in Lameshur Bay (N = 9). 250 m detection radius as an example.

VR2 array
Figure 2. Potential VR2 array design to examine large-scale movement patterns of fishes inside and outside VI National Park, VI Coral Reef National Monument and outside areas (N = 36).
250 m detection radius as an example.

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Timeframe

Ongoing: 2006 - 2011

For More Information

Project Manager:
1305 East West Highway
SSMC-IV, N/SCI1
Silver Spring, MD 20910
301-713-3028 x 160



Fisheries Biologist
USGS, Hawaii Cooperative Fisheries Research Unit
University of Hawaii



1305 East West Highway
SSMC-IV, N/SCI1
Silver Spring, MD 20910
301-713-3028 x 144


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