RRS Discovery Heads for St Helena

The Royal Research Ship (RRS) Discovery is due to arrive at St Helena on Saturday, 26 November having completed its first leg of research in the waters around Ascension Island. To find out more on what was done around Ascension during the DY159 expedition, see the Ascension Marine Protected Area (MPA) social media accounts.

Work for St Helena will start whilst the vessel is en route to the island. Scientists will be conducting seabed mapping of two unnamed seamounts in the northwestern section of St Helena’s MPA and deploying passive acoustics equipment as part of a trial to tackle Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

The mapping will provide important data to improve our understanding of the seamounts, whilst the acoustic equipment will trial new methods of monitoring our waters for signs of illegal fishing activity.

On Saturday morning six local scientists, including two marine apprentices, will join the vessel for nine days. Once the vessel is fully crewed, further work will commence.

Research activities over the nine days will include:

  • Pelagic species assessment to understand St Helena food webs. This involves deploying mid water trawls at different depths within the water column (500 to 1000 meters) and the deployment of underwater cameras known as Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems (BRUVS).
  • Acoustic assessments of bait fish species around the island and offshore areas, supported inshore by local fishers.
  • Offshore habitat assessments. This involves performing camera surveys, physical specimen collections and sediment grab samples of the seafloor at depths of over 3000m deep.
  • Repeated collection of oceanographic data by deploying conductivity, temperature and depth sensors referred to as CTD’s, in locations around the Island as part of St Helena’s long-term oceanographic monitoring. Water samples will also be collected from these stations for eDNA and stable isotope analysis.

Research is conducted 24 hours a day. Local scientists will be working 12 hour shifts, during which time they will participate in all work areas, as well as processing samples in the ship’s laboratories alongside international specialist scientists and undertaking fisheries science training to enhance skills.

The planned research within St Helena waters will continue to enhance knowledge of the marine environment, supporting evidence based local management. The DY159 expedition is funded by the UK Government’s Blue Belt Programme, and led by project partners the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) and Marine Management Organisation (MMO), through the National Oceanographic Centre (NOC).

They are supported by a number of high profile organisations including the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), The Natural History Museum (NHM), Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML), the University of Western Australia (UWA) and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute of Northern Ireland (AFBI).

Internet permitting, the local team onboard will be updating the St Helena MPA social media accounts (below) and using #DY159 to let you know how work is progressing. SHG’s Marine Apprentice, Cerys Joshua, will be writing a small blog each day on her experience using #DISCOCerys. There are also plans for two live call in’s from the ship which will be aired on local radio, so watch this space.

On the expedition Marine Apprentice Cerys Joshua said:

“We’re all really excited to get going and see what we can learn about St Helena’s MPA. This is an amazing opportunity and one that me and the rest of the team can’t wait to get stuck into. It’s going to be a busy nine days but with the team and tools that we’ll have on board we’ll hopefully come away with lots of new information, and maybe even a few new discoveries!”

#smallislandBIGFUTURE #sthelenampa #DY159 #Discovery #DISCOCerys #MMO #CEFAS


23 November 2022

St Helena Government Communications Hub

Telephone: 22470
Email: communications@sainthelena.gov.sh