Norway has taken on the role as an ambassador for the FAO within the subject of global nutritional security. Fish plays a central role in nutritional security and is an important food group with regard to prevention of malnutrition and non-communicable disease. Seafood is a good source of fats and protein and a unique source of micronutrients such as marine fatty acids, iodine, selenium and vitamin D. Small fish eaten whole with bones and innards are also a good source of calcium, zink and vitamin A. Globally, malnutrition is still a challenge, and for instance insufficient intake of vitamin A affects about 1/3 of all preshool children. Presently there is little data on the contents of nutrients in different fish species from different areas of the world. The sea areas off the coast of western Africa contain large fish resources due to the upwelling of nutrient-rich deep water, which leads to a high production. There are high abundances of fish species such as anchovy, pilchard, Sardinella, mackerel and horse mackerel, species that are important food resources particularly to the coastal population of west Africa and as a resource for the coastal nations in the area. In addition to knowledge of the contents of nutrients, there is also a need for more data on the levels of both legacy contaminants such as heavy metals and chloro-organic contaminants as well as emerging contaminants and microorganisms. Knowledge on levels of undesirable factors such as environmental contaminants and microorganisms are of significance both to assess seafood safety and possible effects of marine environmental pollution.
In May 2017, the Nansen programme initiated its first series of cruises along the west coast of Africa. The overall aim of the Nansen programme is, through sustainable fisheries, to ensure nutritional security for people in cooperating countries. An important part of ensuring nutritional security is to document the contents of nutrients in the fish resources, as well as documenting that the fish is safe food. The main aim of this project, which is a small part of the Nansen programme, is to increase knowledge of the contents of nutrients and contaminants in the most common fish species caught in the Canary current off the west coast of Africa, as well as in mesopelagic fish from the area. Furthermore, we want to be able to explain why the levels are as they are. In order to do this, samples will be taken at the cruise with Dr. Fridtjof Nansen from May to July 2017, on the distance Casablanca – Las Palmas – Dakar – Konakry. Additionally, a mesopelagic transect will be undertaken after Las Palmas. The cruise is managed by the Institute of Marine Research (CDCF) and trawl samples will be taken to investigate fish stocks and ecosystem condition. Samples of fish captured in the trawl will be taken for measurements of nutrients and contaminants at a total of five different stations. Samples of fish and cephalopods from trawl hauls will be prepared on board with regard to later analysis for many different nutrients and contaminants. Samples of mackerel will be studied for the presence of the parasite Kudoa and samples of a dominating fish speceis will be taken for determination of the presence of microorganisms such as Salmonella and enterobacteriaceae. Of fish that are sufficiently large, we will analyse for total mercury and methyl mercury in both fillet and liver samples, and we will sample gut contents with regards to analysis for microflora DNA (for methylation of demethylation bacteriae), total mercury and methyl mercury. Samples will also be taken for analysis of stable N-, C- and S isotopes as possible explanatory variables. Mesopelagic fish will be sampled whole and analysed for nutrients and contaminants, and in addition samples will be taken and saved for later analysis of microplastics.