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In Casablanca, the new Nansen celebrates its first research voyage

Docked in Casablanca, Morocco, the new Nansen is ready to set sail on her maiden research voyage.
H.E. Mr. Aziz Akhannouch, Minister for Agriculture, Maritime Fisheries, Rural Development and Water and Forests of Morocco is welcomed to the ship by Mr. Are-Jostein Norheim, Ambassador of Norway to Morocco and FAO Representative to Morocco Michael George Hage.
The Nansen crew take delegates on a tour of the ship during the Casablanca launch ceremony.
Celebrating the new Nansen’s first scientific journey.
Minister Akhannouch is interviewed about the Nansen for Moroccan television.
Zakia Drioich, Moroccco’s Secretay-General of Fisheries, Morocco’s Minister Aziz Akhannouch, Are-Jostein Norheim, Ambassador of Norway to Morocco and FAO Representative to Morocco Michael George Hage at the launch ceremony.

On Monday, 8 May, the new marine research vessel the Dr. Fridtjof Nansen was feted in Casablanca, Morocco, before departing on its maiden research voyage along the coast of northwest and western Africa.

The Nansen – a 43-year-old partnership between FAO and Norway – has been working directly with developing countries to build capacity in order to improve their fisheries management and conservation of natural resources.

The current vessel is the third ship taking part in this decades-long partnership. This Nansen, officially launched in Oslo’s harbor on 24 March, is the most advanced marine research vessel of its kind in the world. With its seven laboratories and specialized scientific equipment, the Nansen is an impressive scientific laboratory at sea – one which is setting off on its first research voyage: a 10-week survey voyage.

The current survey voyage began in Casablanca on Monday, it now continues along the coast of Morocco and then Mauritania, Guinea Bissau, Senegal and Guinea. The voyage is divided into four different journey legs, running from 8 May to 18 July, when the ship will arrive at its final port in Conakry, Guinea.

The area to be surveyed includes the continental and upper slope of the west coast of Africa. It will sample the pelagic ecosystem from shallow water to 500 meter-depth. This will include acoustic recordings, measuring hydrographic conditions, the abundance and distribution of plankton, and the presence of marine debris and other pollutants such as microplastics.

The start of this journey was celebrated in Casablanca and attended by Morocco’s Minister for Agriculture, Maritime Fisheries, Rural Development and Water and Forests, and the Ambassador of Norway. Diplomats from Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania and Senegal, as well as other countries involved in the Nansen’s survey voyage, also participated in this event.

The FAO Representative in Morocco, accompanied by a delegation of senior officials from the organization, and directors of Fisheries and Research Institutes from the five countries involved in the campaign, including Morocco, also attended the Casablanca event and toured the new vessel and its facilities.

Speaking at the event, H.E. Mr. Aziz Akhannouch, Minister for Agriculture, Maritime Fisheries, Rural Development and Water and Forests, said that “the new Nansen scientific research vessel is an extraordinary opportunity for African scientists for several reasons. It will allow us to undertake new fields of research, to have at our disposal a common research tool to strengthen our South-South cooperation and to develop our expertise in the oceanographic and fisheries fields”.

Mr. Are-Jostein Norheim, Ambassador of Norway to Morocco, spoke about the vessel’s” state-of-the-art technology and world-class expertise in the management of marine resources. It is designed to generate the knowledge we need to sustainably manage our ocean resources. This research vessel is a symbol of what we can achieve together when knowledge and technology are combined with international cooperation and political determination.”

FAO Representative Michael George Hage, stressed that “The research carried out by the vessel and supported by the FAO Nansen project, is essential for the management of ocean resources and ecosystems. The research has a vital role in the success of the “Blue belt” Initiative launched by Morocco at the COP22. This step is in line with the FAO “Blue Growth” Initiative and the United Nations Conference that will take place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York 5-9 June 2017, to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goal 14 – to conserve and sustainable use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.”

As in the past, we will be following the scientists on board the Nansen as they carry out their work on this maiden survey voyage on this new Nansen. Merete Kvalsund of Norway’s Institute of Marine Research (IMR) is a pelagic fish expert and is on board this survey voyage, working with the scientists and crew on board. She will be taking time away from her busy schedule to share with us some aspects of work being undertaken on this survey voyage and information about what life on board is like aboard this international marine research vessel.

We hope you’ll join us on this journey! Anchors aweigh to the new Nansen! 

You can see this short video of the new Nansen, also available in French and Arabic .

Ambassador Are-Jostein Norheim “This research vessel is a symbol of what we can achieve together when knowledge and technology are combined with international cooperation and political determination.”
Aziz Akhannouch, Minister for Agriculture, Maritime Fisheries, Rural Development and Water and Forests of Morocco at the ceremony, noting that the new Nansen is an extraordinary opportunity for African scientists.
The reception on board the Nansen.
FAO’s Merete Tandstad and Kwame Koranteng of the Nansen team, FAO Representative in Morocco Michael Hage and Ambassador Are-Jostein Norheim discuss the Nansen’s upcoming voyage.
The Moroccan delegation tours the Captain’s bridge aboard the Nansen
Blue skies and bright sunshine greeted the Nansen on the day of its launch. Anchors aweigh as she sails on to new scientific adventures!

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