Marine Biology

, Volume 153, Issue 4, pp 507–521 | Cite as

Reconstructing the movements of free-ranging demersal fish in the North Sea: a data-matching and simulation method

  • David RightonEmail author
  • Craig M. Mills
Research Article


Demersal fish cannot be readily tracked using data loggers that provide satellite-based or light-based geolocation. Moreover, fish that are highly mobile within the water column cannot readily be located with other methods, such as the tidal location method (TLM). As an alternative, we describe a process that provides estimates of geographic location by simulating movement paths through geographic locations that match temperature and depth data recorded by data loggers. Depths and temperatures recorded by data loggers were compared with a North Sea temperature and depth database to identify all locations with matching data. A movement rate filter was then applied to eliminate spurious locations and simulations of possible movement paths through the remaining positions were used to generate estimates of the likelihood of a particular location having been occupied. The performance of the technique was assessed by reconstructing movement paths of artificial migrations and by using depth and temperature data collected at known locations in the North Sea. Estimates of the positional accuracy and error were comparable to the North Sea TLM. Reconstructions of the migrations of cod tagged and released in the North Sea were successfully achieved with the method. This method has application in defining the movements and migrations of commercial species in any sea area where databases of commonly measured environmental variables are available.


Migration Route Movement Path Bluefin Tuna Migration Path Pacific Bluefin 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank Julian Metcalfe and Stefan Neuenfeldt for comments and discussions that helped the development of the method and this manuscript. This research was funded by: Defra as part of project M0154, and by the EU as part of project CODYSSEY (Q5RS-2002-00813).


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Copyright information

© British Crown 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture ScienceLowestoft LaboratoryLowestoft, SuffolkUK
  2. 2.UNEP World Conservation Monitoring CentreCambridgeUK

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