Announced at the Ocean Tracking Network Conference in June of 2006, a plan to expand the pilot efforts of two Census of Marine Life projects is on the horizon. Both the Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking (POST) project and the Tagging of Pacific Pelagics (TOPP) project, have been utilizing tracking technology to explore the movements and distributions of certain important species off the Pacific coast of the United States and Canada. Now a new program entitled the Ocean Tracking Network (OTN) seeks to expand the work of these projects into a global network to shed light on the movements of marine species around the world.
Utilizing small, relatively inexpensive transmitters, that can be implanted into a variety of species, and tracking arrays set up on the seafloor along the continental shelf, researchers can collect information on the movement of animals as well as environmental parameters such as salinity, depth, water temperature, and light conditions. Professor Ron O'Dor, the leader of the Ocean Tracking Network, which is based at Dalhousie University (Canada), states that "Revolutionary new technologies open the path not just to improved fisheries management, better sea life conservation measures, and the potential of abundant and sustainable stocks of commercial fish, they will also provide scientists with a massive increase in observations of rapidly shifting marine conditions in this era of climate change."
Scientists will determine which species should be tracked and how best to arrange tracking arrays in order to effectively and efficiently set up the global system. The OTN plan identifies 14 ocean areas that are intended to be included in the program: The Atlantic Ocean (NW, NE, SW, SE), the Pacific Ocean (NW, NE, SW, SE, and Mid Ocean), the Indian Ocean (East and West), the Mediterranean, the Arctic Ocean, and the Southern Ocean. According to Prof. Barbara Block of Stanford University, the principal investigator for the TOPP project, with all of these areas online in one global program, "We hope that together we can lay the foundation for better management of living resources in the sea. [this] Technology is enabling scientists to collect information that is vital for future marine management."