By: Dr Sean Fennessy
It is rare for KZN scientists to have access to world-class marine biological research ships, so the imminent survey off our coast by the R/V Dr Fridjtof Nansen, a new Norwegian ship, is a great opportunity. The ship is owned by Norad (the Norwegian Agency for Research Development), in a partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The ship and its predecessors have surveyed many developing countries in Africa and Asia, with a particular focus on fisheries and marine environmental issues – see www.fao.org/3/a-i7652e.pdf for a downloadable book on some of its work in the Western Indian Ocean.
Several ORI scientists are on board for the KZN survey, as well as scientists from academic and government marine research institutions in KZN, and the Eastern and Western Cape. Local survey leader and ORI scientist Dr Sean Fennessy has developed a research plan to incorporate local research questions with the standard Nansen survey protocols which are used wherever the ship operates. Some of the questions being posed: Are there fish stocks off KZN which have not been identified yet? What are the levels of contaminants (including microplastics) in sediments and marine organisms off KZN? Are there organisms new to science off KZN? Are there unique seabed features off KZN? Findings of great interest are anticipated. From KZN, the ship continues up the east coast of Africa via Mozambique and Tanzania, before heading across to Mauritius and eventually Bangladesh