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Fish acoustic receiver network

Telemetry is an increasingly applied technique to investigate the behavioural ecology of aquatic animals in the wild. These animals are equipped with electronic tags, implanted internally or externally by means of a minor surgery. As part of the Belgian LifeWatch observatory, fishes are being tracked with different telemetry types by Ghent University, the Flanders Marine Institute and the Research Institute for Nature and Forest.

Acoustic telemetry

In acoustic telemetry, the acoustic signals of transmitter tags can be detected by a network of receivers. Upon detection, the information of the unique ID-code of the transmitter is stored on the receiver together with an exact timing of the event. When applicable, data from incorporated sensors in the tags (e.g. temperature, pressure and acceleration) can be stored as well. The detection probability of the receivers can change substantially depending on the environment they are deployed, but on average a high probability (> 70 %) is achieved till 200 m.

Within the LifeWatch project, the aforementioned partners established the Permanent Belgian Acoustic Receiver Network (PBARN). The PBARN currently (January 2019) consists of 160 permanently installed receivers in the Belgian part of the North Sea, the Schelde Estuary, Dijle, Rupel, Albert Canal and Meuse River. The coverage of PBARN allows tracking of fresh water, marine and diadromous (which migrate between freshwater and marine environments to complete their life cycle) fish in different environments. Since the start of the network in 2014, over 800 animals have been tagged, attributed to 16 species:


Data storage tags

In contrast to acoustic transmitters, data storage tags (DSTs) do not emit signals, but log and store environmental data (e.g. temperature and pressure). The advantage of this technique is that it does not rely on moored receivers. However, acoustic data storage tags are applied as well: these devices both emit acoustic signals to be detected by the PBARN and log environmental variables. Nonetheless, DSTs need to be retrieved to obtain the recorded data. Based on those data, the tagged fish its trajectory can be reconstructed. Hence, if you find a red object on a beach, please contact and get your reward!



From left to right: Mooring of an acoustic receiver (©VLIZ) - A V9 acoustic tag (Vemco) (©VLIZ) - A pop-off data storage tag (pDST) (©VLIZ) - An Acoustic Data Storage Tag (ADST) (©VLIZ)


The Permanent Belgian Acoustic Receiver Network (PBARN)



Data can be accessed via the LifeWatch Data Explorer for fish telemetry data.

Metadata is available at:

  • LifeWatch observatory data: fish acoustic receiver network, More


Useful links

  • ETN: Access, store and share fish tracking data on the European Tracking Network data platform.


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