Fish and chips to help predict sea life future

Mon Sep 13, 2010 6:10am EDT
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - British scientists will implant fish with sensors similar to those used in computer game consoles to better understand their movements under water.

Scientists from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) are looking to pilot the technology as part of their research into fish habits which will ultimately help with predictions about future fish stocks.

The three-axis accelerometer sensors, which can detect movement in any direction just as in Nintendo Wii remote controls, will be used to learn more about the habits of fish by studying how they move about and measuring their metabolic rate.

"It is incredible to think that the same technology we use to play computer games could eventually help us in our predictions of future fish stocks," Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon said in a statement. "This shows the ingenuity of our scientists in striving to improve our understanding of the natural world."

Cefas have already trialed an electronic tag which can log every time a fish opens its mouth, which they can use to track when a fish is breathing, feeding, coughing or yawning. The tag can also determine the fish's location.

The tags, which cost up to 800 pounds ($1,233) each to produce, work by installing a magnet in the jaw of a fish, with a sensor that reads the changes in the magnetic field as it opens and closes its mouth.

The scientists found that the tag was so successful at keeping track of fish activity in its trials that they are now planning to use a full production version to monitor feeding in wild cod in the open seas.

The sensors are helping Cefas scientists to get a better picture of fish behavior -- such as when, where and how often they eat -- which in turn will help scientists understand more about fish stocks' sustainability, and the distribution and abundance of their food sources.

(Reporting by Paul Casciato; Editing by Steve Addison)