Topic 4c (part 1) - Ocean colour and sustainable fisheries

Ocean colour is intricately connected to the biology of our oceans.

Ocean colour provides information on primary production relevant to fisheries and marine ecology, which can be used as input into ecosystem models, and help to develop advisories for marine management and aquaculture.

The applications of ocean colour data for managing, for example, fisheries have been found very useful. The timing of phytoplankton blooms can have a direct impact on e.g. larvae survival in fish. Knowing where these nutrient rich areas are in the ocean is fundamental for ensuring their sustainable management.

Fishermen use information from satellite data to achieve catch targets more efficiently and minimise the search time for fish. When fish are vulnerable (when they lay eggs) fishermen are advised to stop fishing during this time, to help the survival of the fish.

So understanding what ocean colour says about the marine ecosystem and monitoring seasonal shifts, allows scientists to make predictions from early in the year to months in advance.

Featured Educators:

  • Dr Shubha Sathyendranath

Explore the data

EUMETSAT Oceans MOOC Data Viewer

View featured satellites on the satellite tracking app

Don’t forget you can download the video and transcript with the links on the right.


Biological Carbon Pump

Schematic explaining the concept of the biological carbon pump – how phytoplankton contribute to take-up and storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Cyanobacteria blooms

Sentinel-3 OLCI cyanobacteria blooms

Chlorophyll a concentrations (mg/m3)

Sentinel-3 OLCI chlorophyll-a concentration early result. The dark blues have the lowest concentrations, followed by the light blues, then greens, yellow, and finally red which has the highest concentration of Chlorophyll a.

Chlorophyll a concentration, globe

Sentinel-3 OLCI chlorophyll-a concentration early result
SeaWiFS Biosphere from 1997 to 2006

Aquatic Microbiology
Sea Surface Temperature, India

This SST map provides vital information for ESSO-Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), to create Potential Fishing Zones (PFZ) that are given to fisherman on a daily basis.

Thermal Signture of Namibian Coastline

The first image from the Sentinel-3A Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer (SLSTR) thermal-infrared channels depicts thermal signatures over a part of western Namibia and the South Atlantic Ocean. Cold water is seen along the Namibian coast upwelling from deeper waters. The Benguela current flows north along the west coast of South Africa driven by southeasterly winds creating coastal upwelling. Many eddies and meanders are generated in this complex system and these small-scale features are captured beautifully by SLSTR. Understanding changes in the pattern of these waters is important for fisheries, for example.

Bluefin Tuna Feeding Habitat

Multi-annual mean occurence of bluefin tuna feeding habitat (%): 2003-2009

Conditions for Bluefin Tuna Feeding

The image shows conditions for Bluefin tuna feeding, ranging from unfavourable (blue) to favourable (red) in the Mediterranean Sea as predicted by an ocean ecosystem and fish population model for the week centred on 16 October 2002. The model uses satellite data as well as data from an operational ocean model. The zoom shows the Gulf of Lyon, where schools of juvenile Bluefin tuna (circles) were identified from aerial surveys in the same week. Historical data and simulations are used to validate the modelling approach. It is expected that such products could be used in the future for monitoring of stocks and fisheries.

MERIS Phytoplankton bloom

A phytoplanton bloom off the coast of mainland Europe’s most northern point, Cape Nordkinn. Taken by MERIS on Envisat.