Port de plaisance du Havre is set to start collaborating with the project Phenomer, from the Institut Français de Recherche pour l’Exploitation de la Mer (Ifremer), sampling and identifying species to help establish the causes of coloured blooms.

Areas of discoloured water in coastal areas, such as distinctive brown, red or green hues, can be indicative of intense biological activity where photosynthetic organisms proliferate (aka Harmful Algal Bloom or HABs) in response to several environmental drivers such as an excess of nutrients in the water. This might result from runoff from watersheds dominated by agricultural and/or industrial activities. Occasionally, the metabolic processes involved can result in the production of toxins or irritants, leading to beaches being closed in order to avoid injury to bathers. Severe cases can also lead to fish mortality and poisoned shellfish.

Operating since 2013 in Brittany and recently in all coastal areas of France, the citizen monitoring program Phenomer is focused on water discoloration observations. This project aims to introduce citizens to Harmful Algal Blooms management and scientific analysis as a way to improve and structure the observation of these events. Phenomer can also rely on satellite images to help detect HABs and is working with universities to assist with tracking.Detecting and identifying the species and other variables of each bloom improves modelling on how, why and where blooms develop. Boaters can help by conveying sightings of these blooms and taking samples which are then sent via relay stations back to the labs at Ifremer.

Port de plaisance du Havre is well versed in cooperating with coastal science studies and is delighted with the chance to be able to both contribute to these studies and offer local boaters and residents more information about these blooms.

Harbour Master Julien Lebas commented:

We see these discolourations in local waters around 5 or 6 times a year, which leads to a lot of speculation. It will be encouraging to be able to receive feedback from the project about possible harmful or toxic effects and of course why they occur. Our cruising community is very supportive of such projects, and we look forward to inviting Phenomer to our events.

Boaters offer significant advantages in terms of gathering oceanographic data, due to their ability to access coastal stretches of water and those further offshore. Beyond this, local boaters’ familiarity with the colour of the waters makes them better at being able to detect unusual discolouration.

Julien Lebas and TransEurope Marinas look forward to working with scientists involved in Phenomer’s project like Tania Hernández Fariñas (Ifremer, Normandy station) to extend the project around other TransEurope Marinas based in France.

For more information on Phenomer, visit the website.