Information for Fishermen

Moored Buoys of the Tropical Atmosphere-Ocean Array

Buoy Warning

What is the Tropical Atmosphere-Ocean (TAO) Array?

The TAO Array is a series of buoys deployed as part of an international research program supported by the United States, France and Japan. These buoys help scientists learn more about how warm water of the equatorial Pacific affects world wide climate. The name of the array was changed to TAO/TRITON on 1 January 2000 in recognition of Japanese TRITON buoys which are now being used in the western part of the array.

TAO Array

How many buoys are there?

This program consists of some 70 buoys, all located within 10 degrees of the equator between the Galapagos Islands and New Guinea.

What do they measure?

The buoys measure wind direction and speed, air temperature and humidity, and temperature of the ocean at the surface and at various depths to 500 meters below the surface. A few buoys also measure currents, rainfall, and solar radiation. Data and position are relayed by satellite to scientists around the world every day.

How are the data used?

Researchers use the data to learn how to predict future changes in the world's climate. The buoys were first deployed to learn how to predict the El Nino/ Southern Oscillation phenomenon. El Nino events involve disruptions in the ocean surface winds and the upper ocean temperature pattern. These disruptions lead to seasonal climate variations and changes in fish migration patterns in many areas of the world ocean including the tropics.

The data are also made available to weather forecasters around the world. In the tropics, there are very few locations or ships that regularly report the weather. Measurements of the observed weather conditions that these buoys record and transmit regularly are an essential ingredient in weather predictions.

How do the buoys help me?

Sea surface temperature is an important tool to find many different species of fish. The buoys provide this information to weather centers daily. These centers, in turn, produce charts of sea surface temperature and distribute them via radiofax broadcasts to fishermen at sea or to your home office. Knowing where to look for fish saves both fuel and time.

Several nations have also successfully used surface wind and ocean current information from the buoys to help locate missing or overdue boats.

The ability to predict future El Nino events and to estimate the degree to which they will disturb the ocean can help fishermen plan their operations in advance.

Are the buoys drifting?

No! Each buoy in the Array is securely anchored by steel cable and deployed with a short scope. They are under a great deal of tension and, if lifted out of the water, are dangerous to you and your crew.

Advice to Fishermen

  • DO keep watch for the buoys at sea; they should be visible on radar and can be avoided.
  • DON'T moor to, damage, or destroy any part of the buoys. They provide valuable information to many communities, including fishermen.
  • The buoys may attract fish: although it may be tempting, DON'T deploy gear around or near to the buoys.
  • If your gear tangles with the buoy, DON'T damage or cut the buoy to retrieve your gear.

Longline fishing gear entangled in a TAO mooring.

For more information, contact NDBC.

Article in Fisheries Newsletter, Fall 1995
Diagram of TAO mooring