Friday, 09 October 2009

R/V Dr Fridtjof Nansen off to study the Comoros Basin

Once again the R/V Dr Fridtjof Nansen has left port (Moroni, Comoros), this time for a joint ASCLME / SWIOFP research cruise with excited scientists from 6 nations onboard. The aim of this cruise is to establish for the very first time the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of the Comoros Gyre. The Gyre is an anti-cyclonic eddy that is generally located from 10°S to 15°S and between the north-east coast of Mozambique and the north-west coast of Madagascar. The location of the Gyre is not constant necessitating long transects of about 500 km to either side of the Comoros (see map). A number of recent exploratory cruises, satellite tracking and remote sensing studies have shown the northern Mozambique Channel to be a generally oligotrophic environment that nonetheless supports a large number of fisheries, a high biodiversity and high densities of ecologically important top predators. To date, the processes that sustain the biomass and diversity of this ecosystem are not well understood. It has been acknowledged, however, that the region at a global scale, is physically unusually dynamic and it has been suggested that the observed spatial and temporal variability of the physical environment may well play an important role in enhancing both pelagic and coastal production and the distribution of fish, zoo & phytoplankton and coral larvae.

Since the 6th October, the R/V Dr Fridtjof Nansen has completed acoustic surveys around two of the Comoros islands to determine the distribution and abundance of small pelagic fish shoals. Mid-water trawls have been used on fish aggregations to determine species and size composition and surface trawls to collect juvenile fish stages. Biological sampling to determine the length, weight, sex, and reproductive condition of random samples of selected species was also undertaken at each biological station. But more of this later!
Another important part of this cruise is capacity building of trainees & young scientists. In the next few days you will hear more from them about their experience during the cruise. This is a unique survey that will provide important information for the region, so keep following our blog

Author: Kathrine Michalsen (Norwegian Cruise Leader)

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