Fisheries Research Articles

Acoustic tracking: issues affecting design, analysis and interpretation of data from movement studies

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Marine & Freshwater Research


Print: 1323-1650 Electronic: 1448-6059


acoustic variation, array design, environmental influences, positioning trial


Agricultural and Resource Economics | Aquaculture and Fisheries | Climate | Marine Biology | Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology


Acoustic telemetry systems are an increasingly common way to examine the movement and behaviour of marine organisms. However, there has been little published on the methodological and analytical work associated with this technology. We tested transmitters of differing power outputs simultaneously in several trials, some lasting ~50 days, to examine the effects of power output and environmental factors (water movement, temperature, lunar cycle and time of day). There were considerable and volatile changes in detections throughout all trials. Increased water movement and temperature significantly reduced detection rates, whereas daytime and full-moon periods had significantly higher detection rates. All nine transmitters (from seven transmitter types tested) showed a sigmoidal trend between detection frequency and distance. Higher-powered transmitters had a prolonged detection distance with near-maximal detections, whereas lower-powered transmitters showed an almost immediate decline. Variation of detection frequency, transmitter type and the modelled relationship between distance and detection frequency were incorporated into a positioning trial which resulted in markedly improved position estimates over previous techniques.