Commercial fishing vessels, automatic acoustic logging systems and 3D data visualization


Over the past five years we have investigated and used commercial fishing vessels and their associated acoustic hardware as platforms for acoustic surveying and data collection. During this period we developed an automated acoustic logging system that will simultaneously record data from the ship's existing sounder, sonar, and navigation systems. The system was designed to be self contained and easy to activate. Once calibrated, the vessel's vertical echo sounder can be used for quantitative fish biomass estimates in a manner similar to a scientific echo sounder. Sonar data are collected in the form of digital images with a navigation file header. Post processing, editing, and visualization tools were developed to scale the sonar images according to range setting and tilt angle. Thereafter, both the sounder and sonar data are combined into a 3D visualization package for presentation, observation, and school area estimates. Industry based acoustic surveys of herring spawning grounds have been used to estimate spawning stock biomass and for near real-time decisions regarding harvest levels in NAFO Statistical Division 4WX since 1997. Currently, there are eight systems deployed on commercial purse seiners within the region. For the past four years data from structured surveys and fishing excursions have played a key role in the assessment of herring spawning stock biomass. While the application of the technology has been driven by a stock assessment mandate, its potential use is more far reaching. The spatial nature the data means that detailed and quantitative studies of fish behaviour, vessel avoidance, fish distribution, and target area can be undertaken from commercial fishing vessels with the addition of minimal equipment. However, quantification of sonar images is restricted to area/volume estimates as no digital amplitude data are available from the commercial fishing units.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

ICES Journal of Marine Science


59, Issue 1




Oxford Journals

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Document Type

Journal Article