First attempt to use a remotely operated vehicle to observe soniferous fish behavior in the Gulf of Maine, Western Atlantic Ocean

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Underwater sound and video observations were made at noon, sunset, and midnight in sand, gravel, and boulder habitat in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, Gulf of Maine, USA in October 2001 using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). Seventeen species of fish and squid were observed with clear habitat and time differences. Observations of feeding behavior, disturbance behavior, and both interspecific and intraspecific interactions provided numerous opportunities for potential sound production; however, sounds were recorded only during a single dive. Although high noise levels generated by the ROV and support ship may have masked some sounds, we conclude that fish sound production in the Gulf of Maine during the fall is uncommon. The recorded fish sounds are tentatively attributed to the cusk Brosme brosme. Cusk sounds consisted variously of isolated thumps, widely spaced thump trains, drumrolls, and their combinations. Frequency peaks were observed at 188, 539, and 1195 Hz. Use of a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) as a passive acoustic observation platform was problematic due to high ROV self-noise and the ROV’s inability to maintain a fixed position on the bottom without thruster power. Some fishes were clearly also disturbed by ROV noise, indicating a potential ROV sampling bias. Based on our observations, we suggest that new instruments incorporating both optic and passive acoustic technologies are needed to provide better tools for in situ behavioral studies of cusk and other fishes [Current Zoology 56 (1): 90–99 2010]. See movie and sound files at: http://www.fishecology.org/soniferous/stellwagen.htm







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