Tagging of Pacific Predators
The Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP) program is one of the field research projects in the global Census of Marine Life. Begun in 2000, TOPP utilizes electronic tag technologies to follow the movements of large, open ocean predators in the North Pacific. Since its inception TOPP scientists have tagged over 4,000 animals representing 23 different species – including whales, seals and sea lions, sea birds, sea turtles, sharks, tunas and even squid! By tagging these animals at the same time and collecting all the data in a central location, the researchers are beginning to answer basic questions about how the open ocean ecosystem works. For example, TOPP is beginning to discover the ocean “hot spots,” where many different species converge. Topp researchers are also finding the ocean deserts, and the ocean highways that animals use to travel across them. By combining information about where the animals go with data about the ocean itself, both from satellites and from the tags the animals carry with them, TOPP researchers can begin to understand how things like ocean temperature and nutrient levels shapes the distribution of its creatures – from microscopic plankton to blue whales!