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Jean Paul, Marie Louise and Jean Hervé are identifying fish. Normally they are working at different institutions in Gabon, but on this cruise the meet for the first time and have to help each out in sorting problems.
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Start of the Ecosystem survey in Gabon - Port Gentil

For the first time an ecosystem survey with R/V Dr. Fridtjof Nansen will be conducted in the coastal area of Gabon. Identification and abundance of birds, whales, fish, phytoplankton, zooplankton and benthos will be conducted in the period from 9-23 May.

In addition environmental parameters such as temperature, salinity, current, chlorophyll and oxygen will be measured. A reception was held onboard the vessel before the start of the cruise and the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Food Security, the governor of Port Gentil, and the FAO representative in Central Africa, were among the distinguished guest.


Some of the crew on R/V Dr. Fridtjof Nansen, dressed up to welcome the distinguished guest. From left the steward Malvin Nekkøy, the captain Hans Sangolt, the chief Kristoffer Økland and the cruise leader Kathrine Michalsen. The crew member Børge Torsvik is admiring the view.

Invited guests arrived early onboard the ship and everybody got the possibility to talk to each other and to inspect the vessel. The governor of Port Gentil held a welcome address, followed by FAO’s country representative Mr. Dan Rugabira and the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Food Security. The cruise leader Dr. Kathrine Michalsen at IMR gave an introduction to the 2014 Gabon Ecosystem survey. This was followed by a guided tour around the vessel.

The Nansen Program supports developing countries in fisheries research and management in order to promote a sustainable utilization of the marine living resources and an improved protection of the marine environment. The long‐term objective of the Program is self‐sufficiency in research and management in partner countries, through the development and strengthening of their institutions. The Program has gone through distinct phases over its time, being the latest one called the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries-Nansen (EAF), which holds a bigger focus on a more holistic ecosystem monitoring.

Jean Noel and Raul Vilela

Jean Noel and Raul Vilela are discussing how to identify the sex on shrimps

Man is now the most influential top predator in the ocean and our harvesting changes demographic composition and species assemblages. In addition, global warming, ocean acidification, and eutrophication are anthropogenic drivers that may influence species and ecosystem dynamics further, but not necessarily in desired directions. Do organisms cope with or adapt to these changes, or do they move? Ecosystems are complex systems of intertwined interactions among multiple species. To understand how interacting environmental drivers affect ecosystems, causal and mechanistic understanding of effects of environmental impact on marine life, is needed.

 Squatina oculata

Some of the fishes are really small and new born. This is a Squatina oculata, swimming around with the egg sack

The Gabon ecosystem survey will be carried out from the 9/5-23/5 2014. Following the requests from Gabon the main objectives of the survey are:

  • to describe the distribution, composition and estimate the abundance of the main demersal fish species on the shelf by a swept-area trawl program
  • to map the distribution and estimate the acoustic abundance of the main pelagic fish species groups in the region
  • to conduct a complete distribution and abundance estimation of marine mammals, turtles and birds on the continental shelf
  • to collect bottom sediment samples to map bottom type and bottom hardness in the region.
  • to collect phytoplankton and zooplankton samples for biomass and species identification
  • to map the general hydro graphic regime by using a CTD to monitor the temperature, salinity and oxygen at bottom trawl stations and on hydrographical transects
  • on-the-job training for local scientist, covering the main survey routines

Marie Louise and Marie Francoise

Marie Louise and Marie Francoise are learning how to take care of plankton samples by Espen Bagøien. In the lab they have to follow a very strict protocol

The survey started in the north and go southwards. The first trawl haul started nicely with more than 35 different species. It is a lot of routines and procedures that are needed to be followed and it always takes some time before everything is in place. The local scientists are learning fast and are doing a great job.

Torpedo torpedo

An electric ray called Torpedo torpedo

We are literary working on equator (passed it twice) and the temperature in air and in the sea (at 5 m depth) is around 30 degrees Celsius, day and night. Luckily it has been a bit clouded otherwise I think the temperatures would have been a lot higher. The local scientist is of course a lot more adapted than the Norwegians. We are dressed in shorts and t-shirts, but the local scientists are dressed in full rain gear, boots and helmet (indoors and outdoors). The humidity is high, making the 6 hours shift on deck a though experience. The “hottest” job does the whale-and turtle’s observers have. The stay on deck from 0600-1800, only with small breaks.


Marie Louise and Jean Hervé are identifying fish. In the back you see Marie Francoise, sorting the rest of the catch. Sometimes we can use several hours identifying some of the more difficult species. We have to use different identification books, because none are complete.