Fish Farmer Magazine January 2021

Page 34

Algal blooms

Eye in the sky Satellite technology is the latest weapon in the battle against harmful algae BY GAVIN TILSTONE


cientists are working on improving the monitoring and prediction of harmful algal blooms (HABs) using satellite images which can provide a cost effective means of observing HABs over larger spatial and temporal scales to complement current marine monitoring efforts. An EU INTERREG France Channel England Programme (FCE) project, launched in 2017, is using the latest satellite technology from the European Space Agency (Copernicus Sentinel-3) to improve the way water quality and harmful algal blooms are monitored in the English Channel. Led by Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML), this four-year project involves scientists from eight French and English organisations. The project, known as S-3 EUROHAB (“Sentinel-3 products for detecting EUtROphication and Harmful Algal Bloom events in the FrenchEnglish Channel”) is using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellite, to track the growth and spread of HABs and phytoplankton abundance related to water quality, in the French-English Channel. The satellite data has been used to create a web-based alert system, the first of its kind in Europe, to warn marine managers and fishing industries of the growth of potentially damaging algal blooms. Data will also be gathered to help better understand why, how and when HABs occur as well as the economic costs associated with HABs and poor water quality and how the web-based alert system may reduce these costs. Harmful algal blooms are caused by excessive growth of marine


Algal Blooms.indd 34

Current “methods

of tracking HABs are inefficient and expensive

micro-algae, some of which produce harmful toxins that can kill fish, shellfish and even humans when they consume contaminated fish. As a result, these HABs can have an extremely damaging effect on the tourism and fishing industries. In the EU, the annual cost of HABs to these industries is estimated to be in excess of €918m. Poor water quality can also affect our coastal regions, which can adversely affect a number of maritime industries. Current methods of tracking HABs are inefficient and expensive, costing €2m annually to monitor just 6% of the Channel area. S-3 EUROHAB’s methods will not only cost significantly less, just €42,000 annually, but will also mean the whole Channel area is covered. The alert system will also result in much faster response times to HABs, potentially helping to mitigate the blooms which will aid in reducing the millions of pounds lost each year due to HABs occurring on both the French and UK sides of the Channel. Improvements to existing methods will be made using satellite ocean colour data and, in particular, the application of the latest technological advancement in, and recent launch of, the European Copernicus satellites. The project will use these satellite data to create a web-based HAB and water quality alert system that has been designed alongside marine managers and industry end users to enhance the marine monitoring of HABs in the French-English Channel region. The web alert system is now live and producing HAB risk alerts for shell fishermen between France and the UK in the vicinity of the English Channel. The alerts are free to access online via the EUROHAB portal (see below). The project budget will total €3.7m with 69% funded by the Interreg France (Channel) England programme, representing a European Regional Development Fund budget of €2.6m. The project is made up of nine organisations: five from France (IREMER-Brest, IFREMER-Port-en-Bessin, IFREMER-Boulogne -sur-Mer, Comité Régional des Pêches de Basse Normandie Universite de Brest) and

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