Einstein Science Reporting for Kids
[ E-mail ]

Contact: Science Press Package
American Association for the Advancement of Science

Find far fish fast

In May of 2003, scientists recorded tens of millions of fish swimming around in one loosely connected group in the Atlantic Ocean not so far from New York City.

That's a lot of fish to keep track of at the same time. In fact, that's the most fish, and maybe the most creatures that have ever been instantaneously "caught on film."

Science author Nicholas Makris from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology helped to create the new fish finding tool. He says that the fish finder will help scientists better understand how fish behave. It will also let scientists calculate the number of fish in different parts of the ocean a task that is incredibly difficult using current methods for fish counting. Makris hopes his fish finder will be used to help protect and conserve fish and other ocean creatures.

The scientists "see" the fish using sound waves sent from a boat. The waves bounce off fish or land formations on the ocean floor and return to a second boat in the same area of the ocean.

To "see" so much further into the ocean at the same time than ever before, the scientists rely on new ways to process the sound waves that return after bouncing off fish or land formations.

With the new fish finder, you can get a view of huge masses of fish from above -- as if you were a bird with "x-ray vision" flying over the ocean. You can see which areas have the most fish and which areas have few or no fish, but you can't tell the exact depth of the fish. You can also see how the shapes of fish formations change from minute to minute.

Atlantic herring, scup and hake or black sea bass probably make up the large social groupings of fish called shoals that the researchers located off the east coast of the United States in May of 2003.

This research appears in the 03 February 2006 issue of the journal Science.