Investigating group behavioral quantization of oceanic fish with Continental-shelf scale ocean-acoustic sensing
Author(s)Yi, Dong Hoon
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Nicholas C. Makris.
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The recent fish population decline due to increased human presence has led to calls for predictive methods to help reverse or stabilize the situation. It has been difficult, however, to establish such methods primarily due to the technical obstacles in observing fish populations in natural habitats. Here we use acoustics to observe the ocean environment and study fish behavior during the critical spawning period over continental-shelf scales. Fish are known to be one of the main sources of strong natural returns in the continental-shelf environment, and so identified as a major source of clutter for wide-area undersea surveillance. The first continental-shelf scale acoustic measurements of Atlantic cod over thousands of square kilometers using towed source and receiver arrays were made by an international, multi-disciplinary team led by MIT researchers including myself in the historic Lofoten cod spawning ground in Norway during the peak spawning period in Winter 2014, where extensive but spatially discrete groups of spawning cod were successfully imaged. These initial instantaneous wide-area observations of cod aggregations suggest that these observed spawning groups have quantifiable properties that are linked to essential collective behavioral functions. We find that the mean group population per annual spawning season of Northeast Arctic cod over the entire spawning ground in Lofoten Norway is remarkably invariant across the available 30 years of line-transect survey data. The marked stability of the annual mean spawning group size in contrast to the large variations in total spawning population across years supports the interpretation of the expected spawning group size over the 30-year data set as the group behavioral quantum empirically expected for reliable spawning. Time series of the total Atlantic cod spawning population for major spawning regions across the North Atlantic show that once the total spawning population declined below a quantum, recovery to preindustrial levels did not occur in that region even after decades, which is an apparent consequence of large difference between the pre-industrial level and one quantum level. Quantized group behavior during spawning is also investigated for the Atlantic herring species. We find that the daily herring spawning group population is stable over the peak annual spawning period from wide-area acoustic measurements of spawning herring in the Gulf of Maine in Fall 2006. This supports the quantum concept that the mean spawning group population has evolved to a stable optimal size to fulfill the essential behavioral function of reliable spawning for Atlantic herring. As with cod, time series of the Atlantic herring spawning population for major spawning grounds across the North Atlantic show that when total spawning population declined below the empirically determined quantum level, return to pre-industrial levels required decades. Our findings show that to be sustained at pre-industrial levels the total spawning population must greatly exceed the mean spawning group size found at pre-industrial levels for any oceanic fish population we investigated, and likely many others. The migration of extensive social groups towards specific spawning grounds in vast and diverse ocean environments is an integral part of the regular spawning process of many oceanic fish species. Oceanic fish in such migrations typically seek locations with environmental parameters that maximize the probability of successful spawning and egg/larval survival. The 3D spatio-temporal dynamics of these behavioral processes are largely unknown due to technical difficulties in sensing the ocean environment over wide areas. Here we use ocean acoustic waveguide remote sensing (OAWRS) to instantaneously image immense herring groups over continental-shelf-scale areas at the Georges Bank spawning ground. Via multi-spectral OAWRS measurements, we capture a shift in swimbladder resonance peak correlated with the herring groups' up-slope spawning migration, enabling 3D spatial behavioral dynamics to be instantaneously inferred over thousands of square kilometers. We show that herring groups maintain near-bottom vertical distributions with negative buoyancy throughout the migration. We find a spatial correlation greater than 0.9 between the average herring group depth and corresponding seafloor depth for migratory paths along the bathymetric gradient. This is consistent with herring groups maintaining near-seafloor paths to both search for optimal spawning conditions and reduce the risk of predator attacks during the migration to shallower waters where near-surface predators are more dangerous. This analysis shows that multi-spectral resonance sensing with OAWRS can be used as an effective tool to instantaneously image and continuously monitor the behavioral dynamics of swimbladder-bearing fish group behavior in 3 spatial dimensions over continental-shelf scales. Recent research has found a high spatial and temporal correlation between certain baleen whale vocalizations and peak annual spawning processes of Atlantic herring in the Gulf of Maine. These vocalizations are apparently related to feeding activities of baleen whales with suggested functions that include communication, prey manipulation, and echolocation. Here the feasibility of the echolocation function is investigated. Physical limitations on the ability to detect large herring shoals and the seafloor by acoustic remote sensing are determined with ocean acoustic propagation, scattering, and statistical theories given baleen whale auditory parameters. Detection is found to be highly dependent on ambient noise conditions, herring shoal distributions, baleen whale time-frequency vocalization spectra, and geophysical parameters of the ocean waveguide. Detections of large herring shoals are found to be physically feasible in common Gulf of Maine herring spawning scenarios at up to 10 ± 6 km in range for humpback parameters and 1 ± 1 km for minke parameters but not for blue and fin parameters even at zero horizontal range. Detections of the seafloor are found to be feasible up to 2 ± 1 km for blue and humpback parameters and roughly 1 km for fin and minke parameters, suggesting that the whales share a common acoustic sensation of rudimentary features of the geophysical environment. No effect of anthropogenic sound on marine mammal vocalization behavior was found during our measurements. Some published statistical tests assessing the impact of anthropogenic sound on marine mammal behavior were found to have 98-100% false positive biases with no true positive confirmation, and so lack statistical significance.
Thesis: Ph. D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Mechanical Engineering, 2018.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 177-194).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology