There’s something fishy on this research vessel‚ but in a good way

29 January 2018 - 06:11 By Nivashni Nair
The Fridtjof Nansen research ship in Durban on 28 January 2018.
The Fridtjof Nansen research ship in Durban on 28 January 2018.

It costs about R600‚000 a day to operate‚ carries a team of highly-skilled scientists and is the only research ship on the globe that flies the United Nations flag.

The Dr Fridtjof Nansen research vessel has arrived in South Africa to save our seas.

Over the next two weeks‚ a team of international and 22 local researchers will use the vessel's high-tech gadgetry to explore the Indian Ocean off the KwaZulu-Natal coast as part of efforts to avert the effects of climate change and other threats to the world’s fish stocks.

The 74.5m-long vessel‚ carrying scientists from Norway and Mozambique and housing seven state-of-the-art laboratories‚ docked in Durban on Friday.

"We will use all the equipment on board to get all the organisms living on and in the water. We will also try to get information on the water quality‚" said principal scientist Kathrine Michalsen‚ from Norway's Institute of Marine Research.

The data collected will guide the Department of Agriculture‚ Forestry and Fisheries to make informative fisheries management decisions.

"Although the fish consumption rate in South Africa is fairly lower compared to the international averages‚ a significant number of poor communities reside in four coastal provinces of our coastline and fish is their utmost dependency‚" said Agriculture Minister Senzeni Zokwana.

Speaking at the port call event in Durban‚ Zokwana said the data will guide implementation of government's small-scale fisheries policy.

The recently-amended Marine Living Resources Act allows fishing communities to participate in the harvesting of fish resources in the areas.

"Given the size of our coastline and the limited research capacities‚ my department conducts little to no research surveys on this side of the coast. It is therefore‚ this reason that we are excited and looking forward to these surveys‚" Zokwana said.

The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation's local representative‚ Lewis Hove‚ underlined the importance of the partnership between the organisation and the Norwegian government in implementing the project.

“Beyond the information that will make it possible to improve the management of fisheries‚ leading to more sustainable resources use‚ the associated research will allow a better understanding of the impacts of climate change and other external factors‚ such as pollution‚ on aquatic ecosystems.

"This new and impressive ship brings important innovations and technological capabilities necessary to improve scientific research‚” said Hove.