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Title: Feasibility of rescue of historic data on fish sounds compiled by the University of Rhode Island Narragansett Marine Laboratory during the 1950', 60's and 70's.

Principal Investigators: Robert Kenney, GSO, URI, and Rodney A. Rountree, Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, UMASS-Amherst

Objectives: To examine historic data and audio tape recordings stored at URI facilities to summarize the amount, type and condition of fish sound materials that still survive. The resulting report will be used to determine the feasibility of data rescue and incorporation into a new National Archive of Fish Sounds. A subsample of some of the best recordings will be used to produce a limited number of copies of a project demonstration cassette tape and CD-ROM containing selected fish sounds.

Statement of the Problem: Research aimed at the identification of fish nursery habitats has become increasing important to the management of both marine fishes and the coastal habitats themselves. The importance of this type of research has recently been emphasized by the adoption of Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) provisions by the U.S. Congress as part of the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Oct. 1996). Essential Fish Habitats are defined as "those waters and substrate necessary for fish for spawning, feeding or growth to maturity." The reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act in 1996, therefore, has led to an explosion in research aimed at identifying fish habitats. The most rapid advances in this area have arguably been made towards defining habitats necessary for juvenile fish growth in estuarine habitats, less emphasis has been placed on identification of spawning habitats (Kneib 1997, Able 1999, Deegan et al., in press). The major obstacles to determining EFH for cryptic as well as large highly mobile fishes is that of choosing the right sampling time, gear and location out of a wide array of choices. Often knowing where to begin the search is the most difficult part of the process. We propose that passive acoustic techniques can be a valuable tool for the identification of essential fish habitats for soniferous species. These techniques can allow for rapid surveys of large areas to pinpoint habitats frequented by soniferous species, particularly during spawning events. Further monitoring of temporal patterns in sound production would allow investigators to design conventional sampling programs targeting optimal locations and times, thus greatly increasing the efficiency of field studies. Although over 150 species of fish from 36 families are known to vocalize (Fish and Mowbray 1970), this likely represents a small fraction of the species capable of some type of vocal communication. Recent advances in acoustic technologies and acoustic tomography theory have led to increased interest in their use for in situ studies of animal behavior (Lobel et al. 1995, Mann and Lobel 1995a,b, 1997). Studies of fish sounds can provide a wealth of data on temporal and spatial distribution patterns, habitat use, and spawning, feeding, and predator avoidance behaviors. However, few in situ studies of behaviors associated with fish sounds have been attempted (Tavolga 1980). Long-term studies of sounds recorded at specific sites have been used to suggest temporal patterns in spawning events and seasonal movements (Fish et al. 1952, Breder 1968). Alternatively, investigators have attempted to locate spawning aggregations by listening for fish sounds along transects. For example, sounds produced by sciaenid fishes during spawning have been used to locate spawning aggregations and identify critical estuarine spawning habitats (Saucer and Baltz 1993, Luczkovich et al. 1999). The technique of identifying essential fish habitat through location of vocal individuals and/or aggregations is especially promising for cryptic species that are otherwise poorly studied with conventional methods. Unfortunately the utility of this approach is hampered by the lack of well-described sound characteristics for most marine fishes. Quantification of the correlations between specific behaviors and specific sounds are particularly lacking. This problem is so critical that it has lead to the publication of temporal and habitat use patterns of fishes based on erroneous attribution of sounds to specific species (Grant Gilmore, Dynamic Corporation, Kennedy Space Center, Fl, Personal Communication, Joseph Luczkovich, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, Personal Communication). A National Archive of Fish Sounds is needed to facilitate the broad use of acoustic monitoring of fish sounds as a method to determine EFH use patterns.


Mr. Paul J. Perkins a phyisical science technician with 50 years experience and a former employee of the Narragansett Marine Laboratory (NML) will be contracted to conduct a partial inventory of the extant tapes and accompanying documentation and provide a summary report describing the amount, types and condition of acoustic data on fish sounds for which rescue is still possible. In addition, he will select a subset of the best fish sounds from which a demonstration tape will be made for limited distribution to interested parties. The inventory will focus on materials from which the book "Sounds of Western North Atlantic Fishes (Fish and Mowbray 1970)" was compiled. In addition we are interested in extensive materials that were collected by the NML subsequent to this seminal publication. Mr. Perkins worked directly with the materials we seek to rescue and indeed, made many of the recordings himself. He has intimate knowledge of the materials and how they were collected. We feel we are extremely fortunate to be able to contract Mr. Perkins.

Rationale and Expected Results:

We expect to obtain an inventory of fish sounds data housed at URI sufficient to support future proposals for major funding to "rescue" the data by converting tapes into digital form for storage on computers at the Library of Natural Sounds at Cornell University. The resulting data set will serve as the backbone of a new National Archive of Fish Sounds that would be available free of charge to all interested persons via the World-Wide-Web. More immediately, the demonstration tape would provide critical information for rapid distribution to scientists around the country and world to aid in the identification of fish sounds. Currently, only a few sounds from a handful of species are easily available to the public in the form of digital sound files. We feel that this is a significant hindrance to the widespread study of the soniferous activities of fishes, and a is a major obstacle to the development of programs that seek to use fish sounds as a tool to map essential fish habitats of soniferous species. We further feel, that the completion of this proposed work will stimulate ongoing discussion on the importance and need of a National Archive of Fish Sounds and catalyze efforts to rescue, not only the NML data, but other smaller archives located around the country. The proposed study has direct implications for efforts to identify essential fish habitats in Rhode Island waters. Much of the historical data collected at the NML was of marine fishes in Rhode Island waters, especially in Narragansett Bay.

Literature cited

Able, K.W. 1999. Measures of juvenile fish habitat quality: examples from a National Estuarine Research Reserve. Pp. 134-147. In: L.R. Benaka (ed.). Fish habitat: essential fish habitat and rehabilitation. American Fisheries Society, Symposium 22, Bethesda, Maryland.

Breder, C.M., Jr. 1968. Seasonal and diurnal occurrences of fish  sounds in a small Florida Bay. Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist. 138(6):329-278.

Deegan, L.A., J.E. Hughes and R.A. Rountree. (in press). Salt marsh support of marine transient species: fact or fiction? In: Weinstein, M., and D. Kreeger (eds). Proceedings of the Special International Conference: Concepts and Controversies in Tidal Marsh Ecology, held April 5-9, 1998 at Vineland, NJ

Fish, M.P., A.S. Kelsey, Jr., and W.H. Mowbray. 1952. Studies on  the production of underwater sound by North Atlantic coastal fishes. J. Mar. Res. 11:180-193.

Fish, M.P., and W.H. Mowbray. 1970. Sounds of Western North  Atlantic fishes. Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, MD. 205 p.

Hawkins, A.D., and K.J. Rasmussen. 1978. The calls of gadoid fish. J. Mar. Biol. Ass. U.K. 58:891-911.

Kneib, R.T. 1997. The role of tidal marshes in the ecology of estuarine nekton. Oceanography and Marine Biology: an Annual Review 35:163-220.

Lobel, P.S., and D.A. Mann. 1995. Spawning sounds of the damselfish, Dascyllus albisella (Pomacentridae), and relationship to male size. Bioacoustics 6(3):187-198.

Luczkovich, J.J., M.W. Sprague, S.E. Johnson, and R. C. Pullinger. 1999. Delimiting spawning areas of weakfish Cynoscion regalis (Family Sciaenidae) in Pamlico Sound, North Carolina using passive hydroacoustic surveys. Bioacoustics 10:143-160.

Mann, D.A., J. Bowers-Altman, and R.A. Rountree. 1997. Sounds  produced by the striped cusk-eel Ophidion marginatum (Ophidiidae) during courtship and spawning. Copeia 1997(3):610-612.

Mann, D.A., and P.S. Lobel. 1995a. Passive acoustic detection of  fish sound production associated with courtship and spawning. Bull. Mar. Sci. 57(3):705-706.

Mann, D.A., and P.S. Lobel. 1995b. Passive acoustic detection of  sounds produced by the damselfish, Dascyllus albisella (Pomacentridae). Bioacoustics 6:199-213.

Mann, D.A., and P.S. Lobel. 1997. Propagation of damselfish (Pomacentridae) courtship sounds. J. of the Acoustical Society of America 101(6):3783-3791.

Rountree, R.A., and K.W. Able. 1992. Foraging habits, growth, and temporal patterns of salt marsh creek habitat use by juvenile summer flounder in New Jersey. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 121(6):765-776.

Saucier, M.H., and D.M. Baltz. 1993. Spawning site selection by  spotted seatrout, Cynoscion nebulosus, and black drum, Pogonias cromis, in Louisiana. Env. Biol. Fish. 36:257-272.

Tavolga, W.N. 1980. Hearing and sound production in fishes in  relation to fisheries management. P.102-123, In: Bardach, J.E., J.J. Magnuson, R.C. May, and J.M. Reinhart (eds.). Fish Behavior and its use in the capture and culture of fishes. ICLARM Conference Proceedings 5, 512 p. International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management, Manila, Philippines.



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Copyright © 1999 by Rodney Rountree. All rights reserved

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