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Research Avenues

Supporting pelagic fisheries

Populations of small pelagic fish, like sardines and anchovies, show evidence of important long-term natural fluctuations in their abundance. These fluctuations seem to be mainly related, among other factors, to environmental variability and are real-world problems that raise important scientific demands and economic concerns. At the same time, it is commonly assumed that recruitment in marine fishes is determined by the survival through the early life stages. During this time, mortality can be very high and starvation, predation and physical processes are considered determinant factors. Small scale fisheries constitute an important fishing resource in the Mediterranean and East Atlantic, both in terms of quantities landed and in the trade market. In Portugal, an important bivalve dredge fishery takes place along the south coast targeting four species: Chamelea gallina, Spisula solida, Donax trunculus and Ensis siliqua. Coastal environments, in particular sandy beaches where this species occur, are particularly sensible to environmental fluctuations, both during their adult life buried on the sand and in their larval stages, drifting on the ocean. Living on the edge, in the dynamic shallow waters, these species occupy an area poorly studied, as it is too shallow for oceanographers and too wet for land ecologists. Thus, are potentially influenced not only by the oceanographic environment, but also by the terrestrial one.

SAFI, by proving a multidisciplinary approach joining oceanographers, meteorologists, data scientists and biologists, will take into account such complexity of influences and introduce it into fisheries management. Hence, it will investigate the relationships between the biological and fisheries variables and the environmental information, obtained mainly from satellite observations, but also from in situ measurements and models outputs. This information will be used to derive indicators for recruitment, abundance and maturation in small pelagic fishes and bivalves.

Principal contact: Miguel Santos (IPMA - pelagic fisheries), Miguel Gaspar (IPMA - bivalve fisheries)


Supporting finfish and bivalve aquaculture

Global aquaculture output has increased rapidly in recent decades, particularly since the 1980s, reaching 90.4 million tonnes in 2012 (FAO This massive growth in aquaculture, with its reliance on a variety of different resource types, underscores why planning the sustainable development of the sector is so vital.  Historically many aquaculture sites were chosen on a variety of criteria not necessarily reflecting the optimal conditions for its sustainable development; an example is site availability.  Frequently, the primary determinant in choosing a suitable site may have been simply a factor of its distance from the nearest urban centres, so as not to draw objections from local communities, and/or an area being vacant/available for development.  While these in themselves are valid considerations in the overall planning process, they must form just part of the overall strategy for choosing a location – a strategy which should include detailed reference to biological factors (both for the culture species and native species), environmental conditions (optimal conditions for aquaculture weighed up against its potential impact on local environment), as well as a variety of social and economic considerations. 

SAFI will collate and analyse all relevant, available environmental and biological information gathered through satellite observations, in-situ data sources and biological data from aquaculture producers to create a clearer picture of how aquaculture may be planned more sustainably going forward. This information will be provided through a webGIS interface for intermediate users to supply advice for aquaculture farm locations.  Using information from the present siting of salmon farms, as a well-deployed aquaculture worldwide at high latitude of both hemispheres, the methodology in SAFI will be developed before being made adaptable to other species and locations.

Principal contact: Marc Shorten (DOMMRS)

Under-pinned by Europe's advances in Earth Observation

The main thematic focus of SAFI project is twofold:

  1. To develop a service to assist aquaculture deployment (optimization of cages location w.r.t. to environmental and ecological context) and environmental monitoring during operations
  2. To develop a service to support fishery by providing indicators of recruitments, abundances and shell/fish locations

It is essential that the use of Earth Observation technologies are a key component to be used, given their ability to gather information over extensive areas: the global ocean.
With this in mind, the objective of the EO research activities in SAFI is to exploit the latest generation of satellite sensors and derive adequate information layers, useful and meaningful for the service users (administrations, fish farmers, advisors, investors, and researchers). The data measured by sensors onboard Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3 satellites from the European Space Agency in particular will be exploited to generate accurate information with the best spatial resolution possible.
These will be analysed to produce intermediate products or maps (e.g. of the sea surface temperature, of the chlorophyll concentration in waters (phytoplankton presence), water transparency, etc.) in near-real-time so that they can be correlated in the biological research activities of the project.

Putting together the knowledge on the environment characteristics and on the finfishes and shellfishes species considered, SAFI shall set up information services and warning systems for operators in the aquaculture and fishery sectors, according to and tailored towards the needs they express to us.

Principal contact: Antoine Mangin (ACRI-ST)