Scientists have gathered this information through special devices attached to animals, which relay information about their behavior and movements to fixed receivers on the ocean floor or to orbiting satellites.

They also use a device called a Wave Glider, which resembles a surfboard. It bobs along the surface of the water and communicates with fixed receivers and tracks the movements of marine mammals and fish that are carrying acoustic tags.

For instance, some recently collected data revealed that one shark travelled from South Africa to Australia and back again within just four months.

“We’re gaining unprecedented insight into the way animals use the ocean,” says Sara Iverson, a biology professor and scientific director of the Ocean Tracking Network, a research and technology development platform based at Dalhousie University in Halifax, N.S.

“It’s changing the way we think about managing these populations. These animals are a critical part of our ecosystem,” she continues. “The better we understand them and their use of the ocean, the better able we are to conserve them and protect people from adverse interactions with them.”

Less than a year ago, Canada’s first Wave Glider completed a mission to collect fish-migration data from 184 receivers that span 205 kilometres.

The Ocean Tracking Network initiative is just one of many major new developments in Atlantic Canada’s oceans industry. Business is booming.

Energy giants conducting deepwater exploration

Five years ago, Ottawa launched the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, a multi-billion dollar commitment to renewing Canada’s fleet. It established partnerships with two shipyards—one in Vancouver and another in Halifax. The first was asked to build non-combatant vessels while the second was asked to produce combat vessels.

“Canada is poised to be a world leader in ocean technology. This industry is under the radar now, but I don’t think it will be for long.”

In January, Irving Shipbuilding set out to build DeWolf-class Arctic offshore patrol ships. The company was named the prime contractor on the Canadian Surface Combatants, the fleet of 15 vessels intended to replace the Navy’s Halifax-class frigates and Iroquois-class destroyers.

The Nova Scotia government is responsible for another promising new development. In 2011, the province launched a study that determined up to 120 trillion cubic feet of gas and eight billion barrels of oil could be found in a geological formation off the coast. Four years later, energy giants BP and Shell are conducting deepwater exploration. The undertaking is worth $2 billion and is one of the largest seismic projects in the world.

Nova Scotia’s ‘vast coastline’ presents economic opportunity

Scientists have been promoting tidal power as a potential source of electricity for decades but there has been little initiative on that front. In the near future, however, electricity-generating tidal turbines will be deployed in the underwater current of the Bay of Fundy and linked to a power grid. A consortium led by a company based in Ireland will place the turbines on the ocean floor, and three other groups are planning to test prototypes in the area in the coming years.

“If we meet all the technological challenges, we could see large-scale turbine development down the road,” says Paul Hill, the Chair of Oceanography at Dalhousie University. In addition to increasing the use of renewable energy, this development would be a boom for the Canadian economy.

“The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world,” say Hill. “If we can harness the power of those tides, we could harness the power of tides in other places and become a global leader in this field.”

Gordon Gale, Executive Director of the Ocean Technology Council of Nova Scotia, notes that technology plays a critical role, not just in the development of tidal power but also in shipbuilding, oil and gas exploration and even marine biology. “Nova Scotia alone has a vast coastline, more than that of India,” he says.

“Canada is poised to be a world leader in ocean technology. This industry is under the radar now, but I don’t think it will be for long.”