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Marine Hydroacoustics

Integrating fisheries sonar systems with seafloor mapping
We are developing new research and management tools by applying fisheries sonar technologies to map fish distribution in coastal ocean habitats. Integrating fisheries sonar systems with seafloor mapping helps us understand how fish are distributed among habitats in reef ecosystems and protected areas.

High-frequency underwater sound can be used to detect and map the abundance and distribution of marine organisms in the water over a variety of coastal habitats. NCCOS is applying hydroacoustics in the southeast U.S., the Gulf of Mexico, and the U.S. Caribbean because it is an efficient, non-invasive survey method that results in geospatial information on marine resources and supports the science and coastal ecosystem management needs of our partners.

NCCOS works closely with the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, and National Marine Fisheries Service to develop hydroacoustic capabilities in support of specific research and management needs. At locations such as Flower Garden Banks, Gray’s Reef, and Florida Keys Marine Sanctuaries and the U.S. Virgin Islands we use fisheries hydroacoustic surveys to map the spatial and temporal distributions of fish, identify fish "hotspots", and model the relationship between benthic habitats and fish abundance.

Hydroacoustic surveys complement existing monitoring programs and survey methods such as scuba diver and ROV surveys, as well as seafloor mapping to provide ecological characterizations of important habitats. The integration of advanced sonar surveys will allow NCCOS scientists, managers, and partners to identify high priority areas and protect and sustain our valuable marine resources.