Satellite on sailfish

Broome’s iconic sailfish are the subject of a new state-of-the-art satellite tagging program.

With help from the Broome Fishing Club, the Kimberley Marine Tourism Association (KMTA), and Woodside, internationally renowned researcher Dr Julian Pepperell is leading a world-first satellite tagging study of sailfish in Broome waters.

The study seeks to answer a range of questions about the habits and movements of the game fish. There will be three tagging programs that will see two types of satellite tags, known as PSATs, and one type of ‘transmitter tag’, known as a SPOT tag deployed on the fish.

The PSAT tags will be able to log important environmental information such as depth, water temperature and light levels and when programmed will be able to detach themselves from the fish and begin transmitting this information to satellites for processing and analysis.

Dr Julian Pepperell says “This data can be used to provide valuable information on not only the movements of sailfish, but also their use of their marine habitat during daylight and nighttime hours “

Broome Fishing Club President, Jeff Cooper, says “This information will not only provide a more comprehensive understanding of our sailfish in Broome, but could also shed light on the sailfish populations in Dampier, Onslow and even Exmouth.”

KMTA Chairperson, Chris Nisbet says “For so long we have been hypothesizing what the sailfish do during the spring tides and at night as well as how far they travel, this research will answer some of these long debated questions.”

According to Dr Pepperell, “The SPOT tags work like a radio transmitter and are mounted to the tail of the fish rather than shoulder. When the fish are ‘tailing’ on the surface the aerial of the transmitter is able to broadcast information to a satellite which can provide real time information on the day to day location of the fish to the researchers. This information can even be put on a website for the public to see where the fish are at.”

The tags will be deployed over the next seven weeks whilst the sailfish are in abundance close to shore.

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