Marine animal telemetry is the technology that allows scientists to determine the behavior of animals as the animals move through the ocean and freshwater systems. Animal telemetry devices (“tags”) yield data regarding animal responses to the coupled ocean-atmosphere and physical environment through which they are moving. Detailed observations of animal movements and behavior in relation to critical habitats in their aquatic environment have significantly improved overall understanding of ecosystem function and dynamics. In the past two decades, rapid technological advances in radio, acoustic, satellite and archival electronic tags that attach to animals have made it possible to collect high-quality biological and physical oceanographic observations as the animals move through their habitats. The tags provide oceanographic and climatological data as well as data on animal movement and behavior on time scales varying from days to years, including in areas that are otherwise difficult and expensive for humans to monitor (e.g., Arctic and Antarctic regions).
The U.S. ATN vision is an observing system that can track aquatic animals and their habitats to provide data critical for the conservation and sustainable management of commercially harvested species, protected species, and other marine resources. It complements existing ocean observing assets and informs ecosystem-based management, fisheries and biodiversity, marine planning, ocean modeling and forecasting, and National Ocean Policy implementation. To accomplish this, the ATN is being implemented on three foundational pillars: Alliances and Collaborations, Data Management & Delivery, and Baseline Observations.