For many fish lovers, the prospect of eating a tasty delicacy has never been more appealing.
But how to make the most of these seemingly exotic species?
A new study published online in PLOS ONE challenges the wisdom of the traditional approach to catching fish.
“Fish are really complex,” says study co-author David Deutsch of the University of Toronto, who is also a fisheries biologist at the University to Protect the Reef.
“They’re not only really hard to capture but they’re also really difficult to study.
There are so many species out there that are so poorly understood, they don’t really have any place in our knowledge base.”
This lack of knowledge can be attributed to a combination of factors, such as the difficulty of finding reliable, accurate information on the ocean’s biodiversity.
Fish and other ocean organisms, including whales and dolphins, have evolved a complex way of adapting to environmental change.
“We really need to understand where these animals are going, and where their ancestors were going, to really understand what’s going on,” says Deutsch.
So scientists have to study fish for clues about how they were evolving.
“The question of where the fish are going and where they’re going in the ocean is one of the most important questions in marine biology, and I think fish are really the only ones that have this ability to do that,” says biologist Sarah Hensley of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.
“It’s a really fundamental problem in marine science.”
To get a better idea of what fish are up to, scientists have been hunting for clues in the marine world for decades.
For example, when whales and other whales go through water changes, their skin gets more reflective.
So researchers can use that information to track how their skin changes over time.
But these insights can’t tell us much about how fish evolve.
“A lot of the stuff that we see in the wild, for example, the shape of the fish, how big they are or what they eat, are very specific to fish,” says Hensleys colleague Robert Ebert of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City, Panama.
“So the question is, how can we take those kinds of data and then put them into the context of what we’re looking at in the deep ocean?”
So Hens-ley and Deutsch started to look into the idea of using high-resolution data from the deep sea to help researchers better understand how fish move in the environment.
This approach is known as deep-sea mapping.
Scientists use satellite data to capture a snapshot of the ocean floor and look for tiny details such as bubbles and crevices.
These bubbles help to determine the depth at which the water is moving.
The deeper you dive, the bigger and more detailed the data become.
“There are two different ways to map the ocean,” says deutsch.
“One is by taking photos of the bottom and then analyzing them on a computer.
And the other is to take a deep-diving video of the water and then use the data to reconstruct how the water moves through the deep,” he says.
The latter approach is called deep-ocean mapping, and is particularly popular in remote parts of the world.
It involves measuring a series of measurements that are not available in the open ocean.
“If you take a bunch of measurements in one location, you can then make comparisons to other locations, and if you do that, you’ll get a very good idea of how the ocean moves and what the water’s doing,” says Ebert.
This type of deep-sensing technique is called seafloor mapping.
To get this data, scientists need to know what kinds of fish are out there.
For instance, they can use high-definition video to see what kind of fish live in specific locations.
But in order to use this information, scientists also need to get a picture of the deep waters around the world, which requires collecting and analyzing detailed maps of the sea floor.
“In some cases, the deepest sea is actually the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean,” says Jeroen Moller of the Norwegian Institute of Marine and Antarctic Research in Tromsø, Norway.
“But it is a very complicated sea.”
So when researchers need to dive to the deepest ocean, they have to get access to a lot of data.
This data is called a seaflomb.
Moller and Deitsch first mapped the deep water around the North Atlantic using satellite data and video.
Then they used this data to calculate the depth of the seaflombs around the Atlantic.
Using this information they determined that the depth in the North Sea is more than 7,000 feet.
The North Sea’s seafloms were so deep, they formed a reef and had a very high concentration of plankton.
In fact, they had more plankton than fish species at the same depth.
But there was a catch.
“As we started to dive, we noticed that we were getting more planktoms and more fish,”