With over $20 billion in annual economic activity, Canada's oceans and their resources are significant contributors to the overall Canadian economy. Developing the full potential of Canadian fisheries as an economic driver for our coastal and rural communities is among Government of Canada's priorities.
Through the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) Government Related Initiatives Program (GRIP), the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is developing new tools an methodologies based on Earth observation (EO) data to better understand ocean ecosystems, climate changes and renew the economic viability of our fisheries.
Image credit: DFO, 2008
This image was aquired by the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) instrument on September 4 2008, working in Full Resolution mode to provide a spatial resolution of 300 meters. It highlights the 1st patch of Sargassum detected with MERIS on the North Atlantic Ocean (35°45'N and 66°21'W). Sargassum is floating marine vegetation that absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) - the most important greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming - through photosynthesis and converts it into organic carbon. This process is known as primary productivity. The patch is near 45 km across.
The primary mission of MERIS is the measurement of sea colour in the oceans and in coastal areas. But MERIS imagery can also be applied to a wide range of applications: ocean productivity, water quality, chlorophyll mapping, phytoplankton monitoring, harmfull algal blooms detection, suspended sedimentation, etc. The ability to monitor Sargassum allows DFO researchers and the Government of Canada to better understand the primary productivity of the ocean, predict climate changes and develop the full potential of Canadian fisheries. To better understand primary productivity, it is necessary to monitor the amount of chlorophyll in marine vegetation. The MERIS instrument is able to detect chlorophyll, the green photosynthetic compound in plants that captures energy from sunlight necessary for photosynthesis.
This sargassum patch discovery is the results of the DFO EO team and CSA GRIP program team joint efforts.
The CSA GRIP program focuses on developing Canadian government use of space-based land, ocean, and atmospheric observation systems and services. It supports the development and demonstration of new applications that increase the benefits and effectiveness of Government of Canada services for Canadians through use of EO information sources and raises awareness within the Government of the uses and benefits of Canadian supported EO missions.
Canada is a cooperating member of European Space Agency (ESA) and contributed to the development of ENVISAT. In response to an expression of interest articulated by Canadian Government users, such as DFO, the CSA has invested in the upgrade of the Canadian ground infrastructure at the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing (CCRS) for the reception and processing of ENVISAT MERIS Full Resolution. As a result, MERIS Full Resolution data acquired over North America are now available on Internet for the Canadian Government users. This initiative, established in collaboration with the European Space Agency and the support of the CCRS, will provide access to all recent MERIS Full Resolution (FR) Level 1 products (MER_FRS_1P) and Level 2 products (MER_FRS_2P) covering North America (visibility mask of the Gatineau and Prince Albert stations). Canada is a cooperating member of ESA and contributed to the development of ENVISAT.