ODYSSEA glider monitoring marine life and pollutants deployed off the Moroccan coast

The EU-funded ODYSSEA project’s Moroccan partner the Association for Integrated Management of Resources (AGIR) launched a SeaExplorer glider in early November 2020, to monitor marine life and pollutants, including micro-plastics, as part of ODYSSEA’s Al-Hoceima observatory.

The glider was developed by French ODYSSEA-partner ALSEAMAR, and carries three sets of state-of-the-art sensors, designed to optimise monitoring capacity and give, for the first time, detailed, real-time information on climate change, water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, chlorophyll-a and CDOM concentration, along with micro-plastic particles pollution, over the whole water column off the coast of Morocco’s Al-Hoceima National Park. The glider crossed the Alboran Sea moving towards Spain through a strong gyre system developed by in the area by the inflowing Atlantic Water.

“For the first time measuring microplastics at sea in real time with the microplastic sensor integrated into the glider developed under the project, which dived today to the depth of 700 m off Al Hoceima , in Morocco,” commented ODYSSEA project coordinator Prof. Georgios Sylaios of the Democritus University of Thrace.

“After the Thracian Sea, where sampling was successfully completed and we barely caught the lockdown, it’s our Moroccan partners’ turn to use the equipment and contribute to Mediterranean environmental monitoring,” he added. “This pioneering operation will provide, for the first time, a wealth of information that will contribute to fill the data gap of the international oceanographic community about the Moroccan coastal and open sea waters in the Mediterranean.”

AGIR chairman Houssine Nibani commented that “this operation will enable Morocco to document and map the physico-chemical properties of the sea in Al-Hoceima in terms of phytoplankton, organic matter and water column dynamics together with the effect of Atlantic water entering the Med producing eddies in the broader region, and provide input for Environmental Protection Studies (EPS).”

Nibani was interviewed by Moroccan media as part of its coverage of the landmark event.

AGIR noted that the ODYSSEA project’s aims include facilitating services for the use of local communities involving marine tourism, fishing, aquaculture, and sea transportation, with the aim of fostering development of the local blue economy.

The Abdelmalek EsSaadi University’s National School of Applied Sciences at Al-Hoceima, the Department of Water and Forests, and the National Marine Fishing Research Institute are also important partners in establishing and running ODYSSEA’s Al-Hoceima observatory.