Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network
Monitoring Project

Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP)

Principal Investigator(s)

  • Barbara Block
    Stanford University
  • Dan Costa
    University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Steven Bograd
    Pacific Fisheries Environmental Laboratory
Start Date: November 20, 2000

The Tagging of Pacific Pelagics (TOPP) research program, is one of six initial field projects of the Census of Marine Life (CoML). TOPP, a collaboration among scientists from U.S., Canada, Mexico, Japan, France and the UK, aims to understand the migration patterns of large predators in the North Pacific basin and how these animals act and interact in their open ocean habitats. By using satellite tagging techniques, TOPP researchers will follow the movements of different species across multiple trophic levels (i.e., the food web) and in relation to physical oceanographic features in order to piece together a whole ecosystem picture.

The TOPP scientists will be using the data to study patterns in animal migratory behavior. There are also members of the oceanographic community interested in using animal-collected data to provide information on sub-surface ocean structure, as well as to validate dynamic ocean models. There has been a great interest among teachers in using TOPP data in their classrooms, and we will provide engaging ways of visualizing the data so the general public can follow along in the research. Finally, if TOPP enjoys the kind of success experienced by the TAG program in the Atlantic, we expect that the TOPP data will be used by policy makers and resource managers to establish management protocols for pelagic species.

The TOPP program makes use of a variety of electronic tagging technologies to follow large, apex predators across the open ocean. In some cases these tags allow us to ascertain daily position of the animals; in other cases they record a variety of parameters (e.g., light, pressure, external temperature, internal temperature) and store these data until they automatically release and telemeter data back via satellite, or the animal is captured and the tag returned.

Summary to Date

The Global Tagging of Pelagic Predators (GTOPP) program is an international, multidisciplinary collaboration among biologists, engineers, computer scientists and educators, which will allow users to view and interact with animal tracking data, as well as oceanographic datasets, to marine life observation. By combining data from a diverse number of highly migratory species, and overlaying them with oceanographic data, it is possible to glimpse the processes that influence how open ocean ecosystems work. Our objective is to understand the factors that influence animal behavior in the blue ocean and to build the tools required for protecting their future. In addition, animals carrying tags quickly become animal ocean sensors and can contribute millions of data records that can help climate scientists build a better understanding of planet Earth.

The GTOPP program builds on the accomplishments of the Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP) program, one of the original field research projects of the global Census of Marine Life. We will utilize the tracking tools and techniques developed over the past decade for gathering, processing and displaying tracking data, and will make these approaches and datasets accessible to a global research and educational community. It will also utilize the newly-developed ocean tools in Google Earth, providing a powerful, intuitive system for accessing and exploring global datasets.

Study Parameters

  • Tagging
  • Range/Biogeography
  • Habitat association
  • Habitat
  • Trophic association
  • Predation
  • Migration/movement patterns
  • Temperature
  • Salinity
  • Optical properties
  • Behavior

Study Methods

satellite tagging

Figures and Images

Figure 1. Tracks of animals in the last 30 days (as of May 24, 2016).

Bluefin tuna.

Yellowfin tuna.