Acoustic Estimates of Distribution and Biomass of Different Acoustic Scattering Types Between the New England Shelf Break and Slope Waters

  • Alexander McLaren

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Due to their great ecological significance, mesopelagic fishes are attracting a wider audience on account of the large biomass they represent. Data from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) provided the opportunity to explore an unknown region of the North-West Atlantic, adjacent to one of the most productive fisheries in the world. Acoustic data collected during the cruise required the identification of acoustically distinct scattering types to make inferences on the migrations, distributions and biomass of mesopelagic scattering layers. Six scattering types were identified by the proposed method in our data and traces their migrations and distributions in the top 200m of the water column. This method was able to detect and trace the movements of three scattering types to 1000m depth, two of which can be further subdivided. This process of identification enabled the development of three physically-derived target-strength models adapted to traceable acoustic scattering types for the analysis of biomass and length distribution to 1000m depth. The abundance and distribution of acoustic targets varied closely in relation to varying physical environments associated with a warm core ring in the New England continental Shelf break region. The continental shelf break produces biomass density estimates that are twice as high as the warm core ring and the surrounding continental slope waters are an order of magnitude lower than either estimate. Biomass associated with distinct layers is assessed and any benefits brought about by upwelling at the edge of the warm core ring are shown not to result in higher abundance of deepwater species. Finally, asymmetric diurnal migrations in shelf break waters contrasts markedly with the symmetry of migrating layers within the warm ring, both in structure and density estimates, supporting a theory of predatorial and nutritional constraints to migrating pelagic species.
Date of AwardNov 2011
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorStein Kaartvedt (Supervisor)

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