Assessing fish presence, density and distribution at the FORCE site using hydro-acoustic sonar data

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Anna Redden, Acadia University

Start Date: May 2016

End Date: April 2017

Countries like Canada, with an emergent tidal energy industry have an interest in improving understanding how (large) turbines deployed in high flow environments could impact on fish.  The primary concerns of regulators, fishers and other stakeholders is understanding what/if the potential risks are from turbine – fish encounters, including injury or mortality, as well as indirect effects on behavior and use of natural migratory pathways.

In order to understand site specific potential risks, there is a need to characterize fish occurrence and use of the water column.  The goal of this research project is to advance understanding of fish presence, density, and depth distribution for the FORCE development site, using newly acquired data sets.   The research team will use hydro acoustic data that was collected using the Acoustic Zooplankton Fish Profiler (AZFP), housed on the Fundy Advanced Sensor Technology (FAST) platform, collected in December 2015/January 2016.  This work will complement other fish studies, adding to the baseline of information available in profiling fish populations in the Bay of Fundy.

To model and analyze the hydro-acoustic data, the team will use ‘Echoview’ software – a highly specialized, sophisticated software product that currently is only available in the Maritimes at DFO St. Andrew’s (NB). The project team will travel to and work with DFO St, Andrew’s researchers to import, process and analyze the data.  As part of this analysis, the researchers will characterize the data into physical and biological classes – a complex and specialized process.  The analysis will provide a greater understanding of fish use patterns and numbers, and use of the water column, and relevance to ocean variables (eg. tide height, stage, time of day, etc.) at the FORCE site.

Overall, the study results will be integral to and contribute to developing a robust environmental monitoring program specific to this area of the Bay of Fundy as well as build Nova Scotia based expertise in Echoview for future research.