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Fish researchers head over ear to discuss biology.

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Last updated: 12 July 2004

Fish researchers head over ear to discuss biology

DAFF04/138M 12 July 2004

Over 300 scientists from across the globe have converged on Townsville to discuss the importance of the humble fish ear in managing our fisheries resources.

Officially opening the 3rd International Symposium on Fish Otolith Research and Application in Townsville today (Monday July 12), Australian Fisheries and Conservation Minister Senator Ian Macdonald said science was now revealing just how important the ear of a fish has become.

"Scientific assessments of otoliths can not only tell researchers how old a fish is, but also past and present information about the fish and its environment," Senator Macdonald said.

"Most importantly, in recent years, they have been studied as potential natural fish tags to help us understand stock structures and interactions, which is critical information to stock assessments and sustainable fisheries management.

"By gathering this kind of information we can also find out details on other scientific endeavours, from climate change to archaeology."

Otoliths are small white bones found in the head of all fish and do the same thing for balance as the inner ear in humans.

"Daily growth rings formed in the first year of life, and visible only through a microscope, record daily age and growth patterns in surprising detail," Senator Macdonald said. "Sophisticated techniques allow the reconstruction of everything from the year of hatch, to migration pathways, to temperature of the water.

"It's like an inbuilt Australia Card."

Senator Macdonald said the challenge for scientists is to continue to develop the appropriate technologies to extract the information from otoliths.

The symposium runs from July 11-16 at Jupiter's Hotel and Casino in Townsville, and is the third in a series of international symposia over the past decade. Previous symposia were held in South Carolina (1993) and Norway (1998). Delegates come from Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Europe, South Africa and Asia.

"With the Great Barrier Reef on our doorstop, and two leading marine research institutions in JCU and AIMS, I could not think of a more appropriate place in Australia to stage this," Senator Macdonald said.

Further inquiries:

Senator Macdonald's office: David Crisafulli 0400 144 483

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