Observing the Ocean

By gmri.org.

The ocean is a big, ever-changing system. Fish are constantly moving around and weather conditions can change in an instant. This makes studying marine ecosystems challenging, but scientists have some innovative tools at their disposal to make it easier.

Looking out at the Gulf of Maine, it may seem daunting to figure out what’s going on beneath the surface. The water is dark, deep, and vast. There’s so much below the surface that we cannot easily see or measure, but people who live and work on the Gulf of Maine need information about the ocean that will help them in their day-to-day lives.

Fisheries managers need to know about fish population levels so they can protect species while also supporting local fishermen’s livelihoods. Fishermen and other mariners need to know when it is safe to go out on the water. Surfers want to know when the waves are right. Two important tools scientists can use to help answer these questions are environmental DNA (eDNA) and deep water buoys.

How can we study fish populations without casting a net?

Successfully managing fisheries in the Gulf of Maine means finding a balance between protecting vulnerable species and supporting the fishermen who rely on our coastal ecosystem. To do this, fisheries managers need to know what fish are in the water, where they are, and how abundant they are. Scientists have many tools to learn about fish populations, such as sampling fish in trawls or using technologies such as acoustics and telemetry. But these techniques can be time-intensive, costly, and sometimes impractical in hard-to-reach areas. GMRI research scientists are now looking to eDNA as another potential tool to study species distribution and abundance.

read more at gmri.org.