Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

The research vessel Dr Fridtjof Nansen of the EAF-Nansen Programme, has just taken off for another month-long research expedition, this time around the Cabo Verde Islands. On board is a team of scientists from the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research (IMR), the Institute of Sea (IMar) in Cabo Verde, and two guest experts – one from the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) and one from Côte d’Ivoire. The expedition crew set sail on Friday 19th November from Las Palmas, Spain, to study marine life and environmental conditions of Cabo Verde waters – an area that is particularly interesting due to the environmental conditions and currents coming from three different directions.

The survey is taking place in collaboration with the Government of Cabo Verde, covering shallow waters from 20 metres, to up to 1000 metres below sea level. The main objective of the expedition is to carry out an assessment of the abundance and distribution of pelagic and demersal resources that occur in these parts of the ocean. 

During this leg, the areas of the islands belonging to the eastern part of Cabo Verde (i.e. São Tiago, Maio, Boa Vista, Fogo), and the areas northwest of the archipelago (i.e. Santo Antão, São Vicente, Santa Luzia and São Nicolau) will be surveyed. In addition, the scientists will document the presence of microplastics and marine debris, and collect samples of different commercial fish that will be further analysed at the IMR laboratory in Bergen to examine the nutritional value and potential chemical contaminants in the fish tissue. The objectives of this survey correspond to 10 out of 11 themes of the EAF-Nansen Programme Science Plan, which guides the research activities of the Programme.  

As part of capacity building efforts – a core objective of the EAF-Nansen Programme – the local scientists from Cabo Verde will receive a training in data collection, sampling procedures and species identification by a taxonomy Expert from Spain and the Norwegian colleagues. Specialized scientific equipment will be used to ensure a better understanding of the surveyed areas and to collect data to complement the existing knowledge of the diverse ecosystem this area represents.

“There are information gaps that need to be filled for Cabo Verde to be able to make informed management decisions and achieve sustainable and optimal use of its marine resources. One way to fill these gaps is through international cooperation – especially since there are limitations in terms of human, financial and technical resources available in our country – and this is why the partnership with the EAF-Nansen Programme is of enormous importance to us”, explains Mr Vito Ramos, the coordinator of the Oceanography Department at IMar in Cabo Verde and the co-cruise leader of this expedition. 

This expedition is the third scientific study in Cabo Verde waters by the Dr Fridtjof Nansen since the start of the EAF-Nansen Programme in 1974. During the previous surveys in the area, the vessel collected data on the biomass of fish around the island. The results from the two previous surveys in Cabo Verde showed a considerable decline in both pelagic and demersal species, between 1981 and 2011. It will therefore be very interesting to compare the results from the current survey with the two previous ones. 

“Fisheries in Cabo Verde have a large social and economic impact on peoples’ livelihoods. Not only does the industry offer employment opportunities for a large part of the population, it also contributes to food security since fish is the major source of animal protein for most of the people living on the islands”, says Kathrine Michalsen, survey-coordinator at IMR and the cruise leader of the Cabo Verde survey. “Sustainable management of the fisheries depends on good knowledge of the fish stocks, what fish eat, when they spawn and what environmental conditions they are facing, and it is therefore important that we carry out research expeditions to collect information and allow for decision making based on scientific data”, Ms Michalsen further explains.

The Cabo Verde expedition is the second and final marine research by the Dr Fridtjof Nansen in 2021, but the preparations for 2022 surveys are already under way. The first leg is scheduled for January/February, in the marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) within the area of the Fishery Committee for the Eastern Central Atlantic (CECAF). During this research, priority will be given to study the Sierra Leone Rise, since previously planned survey in this area was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

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