Currently, the most advanced research vessel in the world, the Dr Fridtjof Nansen arrived in Colombo to conduct surveys on fisheries resources and the marine ecosystem. The survey, starting in Colombo on 24 June 2018 will cover the continental shelf and upper slope of Sri Lanka until 16 July 2018. The last visit of a Nansen research vessel to Sri Lanka was in 1979 -1980.
The Nansen Programme is implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The research vessel Dr Fridtjof Nansen is owned by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and is jointly operated by the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research (IMR), and FAO. The research vessel that will be conducting surveys in Sri Lanka is the third state-of-the-art marine research vessel that has set sail under the Nansen Programme, which has been implemented since 1975. As the only research ship flying the UN flag, the new Nansen vessel investigates oceans, using cutting-edge technology and sophisticated equipment to help countries assemble scientific data critical to sustainable fisheries management and study how a changing climate is affecting our oceans.
The new Dr Fridtjof Nansen vessel, which began its voyage from Durban, South Africa in March this year, is conducting research. The findings are expected to be used to provide fisheries management advice to decision-makers, taking into account climate impact and pollution. It seeks to address the multiple impacts of human activities, including overfishing, climate change and pollution on fish stocks in particular and the marine environment in general in order to preserve the productivity of the oceans also for the benefit of future generations.
A team of twenty Sri Lankans, including seventeen scientists from the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA), officials from the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development, and hydrographic researchers from the Sri Lanka Navy will be attending the survey in Sri Lanka. Some of them will also participate in the second phase of the survey in the national waters of Bangladesh. Since 2007, more than 360 researchers from participating countries have taken part in the ecosystem studies on-board the Nansen research vessel. This has provided local scientists and technicians with valuable experience in data collection and other sampling methods. In many countries, the Nansen surveys offer the only credible source of fishery-independent data for assessment. The results of the analysis of the information collected are used to formulate regulatory and fisheries management measures.
In Sri Lanka, sampling using the full complement of technologies of the research vessel will facilitate the investigations on the hydrographic conditions (physical and chemical), plankton, egg and larvae, jellyfish, demersal, pelagic and mesopelagic resources, and bottom sediment. Opportunistic sampling for pollution (microplastics and food safety) will also be undertaken throughout the survey.
After completion of the survey in Sri Lanka the Dr Fridtjof Nansen vessel will move northwards to complete oceanographic sampling in the international waters of the Bay of Bengal including in Bangladesh and Myanmar before concluding its expedition in mid-October in Thailand.