EAF-Nansen Programme

History of the Nansen Programme

The R/V Dr. Fridtjof Nansen at sea

For more than 40 years, the Nansen Programme has been providing an opportunity for coastal developing countries to assess and manage their fisheries for a sustainable use of the oceans.  The goals and objectives of the programme evolved over time, responding to new global challenges and the needs of recipient countries.

The research vessels named Dr Fridtjof Nansen are the core of a unique science and management programme that for over four decades has been working to meet the challenges of a changing marine environment for a sustainable use of the oceans. Norad has been the owner of the three research vessels since the start in 1974.

FAO has been collaborating with the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and the Institute of Marine Research (IMR) of Bergen, Norway for all this period for the successful implementation of previous phases of the Nansen Programme, undertaking various roles.

Looking back, the Nansen Programme can be subdivided into four main phases:

Phase 1 (1975-1980): Exploratory surveys

Surveys were conducted with the aim at finding fish resources in the waters of newly independent states of the Indian Ocean, bordering on the Arabian Sea and adjacent Gulfs, Eastern Indian Ocean and the South China Sea and the Southwest Indian Ocean

Phase 2 (1980-1990): Detailed mapping of resources within countries' EEZs

This phase focused on detailed mapping and taking inventory of fish resources within the EEZs of beneficiary countries. During this phase surveys were carried out with the RV Dr Fridtjof Nansen in Africa, Asia and Latin America

Phase 3 (1990-2006): Monitoring, management and capacity development

From the early 1990s the Programme expanded on it original scope of undertaking national and regional surveys to also include capacity building in fisheries research and management (institutional strengthening in partner countries), and organization of post-survey meetings to provide fisheries administrations with results of surveys. Regional collaboration and transboundary issues became central in the delivery  Emphasis was placed on countries and institutions in South Western Africa as well as Northwest Africa and the Gulf of Guinea and

Phase 4 (2006-2017): Furthering the implementation of the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF)

From 2006 to 2017, focus was on supporting the implementation of the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF) around Africa. The EAF-Nansen Project "Strengthening the Knowledge Base for and Implementing an Ecosystem Approach to Marine Fisheries in Developing Countries" aimed to strengthen regional and country specific efforts to reduce poverty and create conditions to assist in the achievement of food security through development of sustainable fisheries management regimes and specifically through the application of the ecosystem approach to fisheries in a number of developing countries. The project was managed directly by FAO Vessel operations was based on co-funding from partners, and in this phase the Nansen Programme worked in close collaboration with Large Marine Ecosystem projects and other projects around Africa.

Scientists on board the vessel

Through these activities, the Programme has developed extensive experience and a cooperation network with national and regional institutions and programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa. With the exception of the early days of the Programme, when it received co-funding from UNDP (e.g. the vessel was assigned on a cost sharing basis to the UNDP/FAO Indian Ocean Programme) the Nansen Programme has been funded by Norad.

The information and data collected through the Nansen Programme, in particular through surveys with the research vessels are used to produce reports on the state of the fishery resources but are also stored in a database managed by IMR for the benefit of all partners. The available archive contains valuable and scientifically unique information and data on species distribution, abundance, species interactions, environmental conditions and ecosystem characteristics, in many cases describing pristine conditions prior to fisheries development. These provide valuable benchmarks for the development of ecosystem indicators.

The huge number of students, scientists and ship's crew who have worked on board the Dr. Fridtjof Nansen research vessels over the decades have all been inspired and influenced by this innovative Programme. Similarly, the many fisheries officers who have attended programme seminars or accessed the Nansis database to develop national and regional fisheries policies all cite the research from the Programme as crucial to their work.

Dr. Fridtjof Nansen

The research vessel working in the Nansen Programme has taken the name of Dr. Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930), a Norwegian scientist, polar explorer, diplomat, statesman and humanist who also pioneered research on ocean issues, in particular in oceanography. In later life, his involvement with refugees, working to resettle hundreds of thousands of people after the First World War, earned him the Nobel Peace Prize. The EAF-Nansen Programme is proud to carry this tradition into the future.