Fish acoustic receiver network | Flanders Marine Institute

Flanders Marine Institute

Platform for marine research

Fish acoustic receiver network

A fish acoustic receiver network is used to study and map the behaviour of marine and freshwater animals. This network is based on acoustic telemetry. The tags or transmitters are surgically implanted in the belly of the fishes. In the Belgian part of the North Sea and the Westerschelde, a permanent acoustic receiver network is installed.

How does a fish acoustic receiver network work?

The fish acoustic receiver network is based on acoustic telemetry. This technique can be compared with the SOund NAvigation and Ranging (SONAR) equipment (singlebeam and multibeam sonar). However, the acoustic marks (‘tags’) placed into the fishes, produce the sound that is picked up by the receivers. This shows the difference in technique with other sonar equipment: the sound producer is not the same as the sound receiver.

The implantation of the acoustic tags in the belly of the fish happens surgically while the fish is under sedation. The part that ‘listens’ to the sound signals of the tags consists of minimal four hydrophones (underwater microphones), a receiver and a computer. When a tagged fish swims in the vicinity of an acoustic receiver, the location of the fish in the study area can be determined. This is based on the difference in time of arrival of the acoustic signal at the four hydrophones. The tags can be detected by the receivers at a range of 400 m and are mostly placed at the corners of a study area.


Usefulness of a fish acoustic receiver network?

  • Using acoustic telemetry distribution, movements and habitat use of tagged migratory fish can be traced in a cost effective way without disturbing the fish
  • Technique can be used for e.g. to assess the effects of offshore wind turbines on the behavior of fish
  • Important feeding and wintering areas can be localized

Some studies:

  • Estuarine behaviour of European silver eel (Anguilla anguilla L.) in the Scheldt estuary:

Verhelst, P. et al. (under review)

  • Revelation of a new silver eel (Anguilla anguilla L.) migration route in the North Sea:

    Verhelst P. et al. (under review)

  • Acoustic telemetry as a tool for cod stock assessment:

    Verhelst P. et al. 2016

Technical details

The acoustic receiver network of VLIZ is a VEMCO fish acoustic receiver network and consist of the following technological specifications:

  • Transmitter
  • Receiver:
    • 308 mm long x 73 mm diameter
    • Weight: 1190 g (air), 50 g (water)
    • Maximum depth: 500 m
    • Receiver frequency: 69 kHz
  • More technical details: click here

You want to use the fish acoustic receiver network?

For more information about our rental service, please contact VLIZ

Use and conditions

Note: if you use the fish acoustic receiver network of VLIZ as a scientist, please refer to it in your publications as: "This work was supported by data & infrastructure provided by VLIZ as part of the Flemish contribution to LifeWatch."


The fish acoustic receiver network was funded by LifeWatch and VLIZ