Today marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Fridtjof Nansen
, one of Europe’s great pioneers and humanitarians and an inspiration to FAO’s work in fisheries development.
Born in Norway on 10 October 1861, Nansen excelled in sciences and drawing and studied zoology. His scientific curiosity, matched with athletic prowess, led to brilliant achievements and international fame. In 1882 Nansen sailed to Greenland which resulted in a book of observations and keen interest in the world of sea and ice. In 1888, after completing university, Nansen organized a trip to cross Greenland where he survived temperatures of -45° C, climbed to 2750 meters and mastered dangerous ice , to bring new information on Greenland’s interior.
As curator of the University of Oslo’s Zootomical Institute , Nansen planned an exploratory trip to the Arctic. His ship, the Fram (meaning ‘Forward’), sailed from Siberia in September 1893, emerging in northern Norway 35 months later in August 1896. But half the time Nansen was not aboard. Realizing that the ship would not pass over the North Pole, Nansen and a companion, with 100 days' rations, set out on a 640 kilometere dash to the Pole in March 1895. In 23 days they traveled 225 kilometers over oceans of ice, getting closer to the Pole than anyone had previously been.
Nansen was appointed professor of oceanography in 1908 and continued to break new ground, leading several expeditions into Polar regions. But when World War I broke, exploration halted and Nansen became increasingly interested in international affairs.
Beginning with his involvement for Norway’s independence, Nansen served his country in many capacities, from minister to Great Britain to the League of Nations representative. His many actions included repatriating prisoners of war and negotiating food aid shipments. In June 1921 Nansen headed the new High Commission for Refugees where he created the «Nansen Passport», an identification document recognized by 52 governments. Nansen was awarded the 1922 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his outstanding humanitarian actions. He died on 13 May 13 1930 and buried on May 17, Norway's Constitution Day.
Nansen’s legacy of scientific exploration and research live on in the Nansen Programme
. FAO has been collaborating with the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and the Institute of Marine Research (IMR) of Bergen, Norway for nearly 35 years for the successful implementation of the Nansen Programme and now the EAF-Nansen Project. From 1975 the Programme carried out fisheries resources and environment surveys in developing countries using the vessel R/V Dr Fridtjof Nansen operated by the IMR. Early phases focused on exploring fisheries resources for development and later engaged in resource assessments and monitoring. The R/V Dr Fridtjof Nansen has become a symbol for the sustainable development of fisheries. The Programme has assembled the longest ever, and in most cases, uninterrupted time series of valuable fisheries and marine environmental data from the Large Marine Ecoregions of Africa.
The EAF-Nansen Project
also gives support to developing countries in fisheries research and management and to adopt and implement the ecosystem approach in the management of their fisheries. Through the project FAO is assisting its developing member States to achieve the Millennium Development Goal related to eradication of poverty and hunger while simultaneously ensuring environmental sustainability.
"It was apropriate that a Norwegian fisheries programme to support developing countries was associated with Fridtjof Nansen’s ideals – innovative, bold and adventurous," said Árni M. Mathiesen, FAO’s Assistant Director General for Fisheries and Aquaculture.