Macroscopic observations of diel fish movements around a shallow water artificial reef using a mid-frequency horizontal-looking sonar
Stanton, Timothy K.,
Thorsos, Eric I.
The twilight feeding migration of fish around a shallow water artificial reef (a shipwreck) was observed by a horizontal-looking, mid-frequency sonar. The sonar operated at frequencies between 1.8 and 3.6 kHz and consisted of a co-located source and horizontal line array deployed at 4 km from the reef. The experiment was conducted in a well-mixed shallow water waveguide which is conducive to characterizing fish aggregations at these distances. Large aggregations of fish were repeatedly seen to emerge rapidly from the shipwreck at dusk, disperse into the surrounding area during the night, and quickly converge back to the shipwreck at dawn. This is a rare, macroscopic observation of an ecologically-important reef fish behavior, delivered at the level of aggregations, instead of individual fish tracks that have been documented previously. The significance of this observation on sonar performance associated with target detection in the presence of fish clutter is discussed based on analyses of echo intensity and statistics. Building on previous studies of long-range fish echoes, this study further substantiates the unique utility of such sonar systems as an ecosystem monitoring tool, and illustrates the importance of considering the impact of the presence of fish on sonar applications.