Passive acoustic monitoring has become an important tool in fisheries and ecological studies. However, much remains unknown about fish sounds, particularly in the Pacific Ocean. There are less than 1,000 species of fish that have been documented to produce sound, compared to over 34,000 fish species that exist in the world. The data on known fish sounds had not been compiled until very recently, when Audrey Looby, MSc, completed a thorough literature review of existing publications on fish sound production (up to December 2020). Her extensive database is the first inventory that compiles in one place all existing studies on global fish sound production, and categorizes each study by species, location, sound type, climate, examination type, observation environment, behaviour, sound name, and sound measurements.  

Web portals such as DOSITS and Cornell’s Macaulay Library offer a variety of sound samples of different aquatic species for anyone to listen to, bringing the mysteries of underwater sounds accessible to the public. These portals provide unique educational material and help engage curious members of the public, while also being a useful resource for the research community, providing up-to-date inventories of described sounds. However, existing repositories tend to focus on marine mammals while fish sounds are heavily underrepresented.

MERIDIAN team members Sarah Vela and Amalis Riera are collaborating with Audrey Looby and Kieran Cox in order to transform Audrey’s extensive inventory into an online repository for anyone to consult. In addition to the metadata found in the literature, the team has started an effort to collect sound clips corresponding to the publications, so the online repository will also act as an online catalogue of fish sounds. Sarah Vela is designing a website interface that will include a search engine for species, families, sound types and references, with corresponding links and audio examples. The goal is to create a fish sound catalogue for researchers in this growing field to compare with the sounds they are recording themselves, while also serving the general public as an educational tool.

Screenshot of the FishSounds website showing the recording search page
The recording search page from FishSounds

Check out our FishSounds webinar from November 2020 on our YouTube page.  

Amalis Riera is also contributing to the catalogue of known fish sounds by collaborating with captive facilities to discover new sounds from Pacific species. So far, she has collected over 3,000 hours of recordings from 6 locations between Vancouver Island, Vancouver, Washington State and Oregon. Amalis has already validated sounds from Arctic cod (Boreogadus saida), walleye pollock (Gadus chalcogrammus) and sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria), thus contributing to the catalogue with two species of Pacific Ocean gadids and one Pacific deep sea species.

MERIDIAN team member, Amalis Riera, recording fish sounds with a handheld hydrophone.