Satellite & Acoustic Tracking | Dolphinfish Research Program | Mahi-Mahi | Mahi | Dorado | Dolphin | Dolphinfish
The Dolphinfish Research Program's Satellite Tracking History.
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Satellite & Acoustic Tracking

The History of Satellite Tracking for the Dolphinfish Research Program

The Dolphinfish Research Program’s (DRP) satellite tracking program has engaged sport and small-scale commercial fishermen in the quest to acquire detailed descriptions of habitat use, feeding, and migration data on dolphinfish for the past fifteen years.  Our satellite tracking program consists of four components: raising funds to purchase pop-up satellite transmitters (PSATs) from our sponsors and private donors, fostering the participation of new fishing teams in different locations to aid in the deployment of PSATs, acquiring detailed descriptions of how male and female dolphinfish behave and move, and publishing the results in scientific journals to advance our understanding and management of dolphinfish in order to ensure the future conservation of the species.  Each component presents challenges.

First, while the costs of certain models of PSATs have lowered over the years, the most sophisticated tags capable of gathering the greatest amount of data still cost $5,000 each.  Second, recruiting a captain and their fishing team to help offset outing costs along with giving up a trophy dolphin if caught for science also presents challenges.  Third, once the tag is deployed and the fish is at large, there are a multiude of events that could result in little to no data being collected at all which include, but are not limited to, tag failure, destruction through predation, or damage to the antennae, etc.  Finally, acquiring enough data after overcoming the aformentioned challenges to advance our knowledge of this species through science takes years of work.  Remarkably, over the past fifteen years, our major corporate and fishing club sponsors, private donors, and network of fishing teams have helped the program acquire over 400 days of satellite tracking data from male and female dolphin along the U.S. East Coast, the Bahamas, Caribbean Sea, and Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean.Each component presents challenges.  First, while the costs of certain models of PSATs have lowered over the years, the most sophisticated tags capable of gathering the greatest amount of data still cost $5,000 each.  Second, recruiting a captain and their fishing team to help offset outing costs along with giving up a trophy dolphin if caught for science also presents challenges.

Third, once the tag is deployed and the fish is at large, there are a multiude of events that could result in little to no data being collected at all which include, but are not limited to, tag failure, destruction through predation, or damage to the antennae, etc.  Finally, acquiring enough data after overcoming the aformentioned challenges to advance our knowledge of this species through science takes years of work.  Remarkably, over the past fifteen years, our major corporate and fishing club sponsors, private donors, and network of fishing teams have helped the program acquire over 400 days of satellite tracking data from male and female dolphin along the U.S. East Coast, the Bahamas, Caribbean Sea, and Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean.  These data have already been published in five scientific journals and used to describe the overall daily vertical movement strategy and habitat use of adult male dolphinfish, migration routes and pathways among jurisdictions throughout the western central Atlantic Ocean, differences in movement patterns observed from conventional tagging data, gender specific habitat use and movement differences, behavior near fish aggregating devices (FADs), and more.Through the years, the DRP’s tagging technique also evolved from in-water harpon tagging to an on-board thread-through method developed by Don Hammond.

While the DRP has not published a scientific paper on the difference between tagging techniques, observed data indicate more data is acquired and tags achieve their programmed interval more frequently using the new method.  By using this technique in combination with a tagging cradle developed in 2018, our goal is to acquire 200 days of satellite tracking data over the next 12 months working with multiple fishing teams in the Caribbean Sea, Mid-Atlantic Bight, and Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean.  Gathering these data will allow us to better understand the movements and habitat use of this species in areas that completely lack these data yet fishing pressure on the species is high and abundance appears to be lower than in the past.  Help us fund the acquisition of detailed data records on this vital fish species.  There is no donation too small to help us acquire 200 days of data in the next 12 months.  Donate to our satellite tracking program today.  Click here to donate.

This page is currently being further developed.  Visit our publications page to see reports and scientific manuscripts from data compiled throughout the history of the DRP.

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