15 September – 3 October 2017
Cabo Verde MISSION 2017 – ATLANTIC
A major mission
The Cabo Verde mission, second part of the operations carried out by Monaco Explorations as part of its first campaign in Macaronesia, took place from 15 September to 3 October 2017. Undertaken on-board the Yersin, it follows on from the Madeira 2017 mission.
The coordination of the different operations was under the direction of Pierre Gilles, Head of the Macaronesia mission and Project Manager for the Ocean Policy Division of the Oceanographic Institute, Albert Ist, Prince of Monaco Foundation. The mission mobilized some thirty participants. It brought together several local teams, numerous scientists from various establishments, NGO leaders and representatives from government institutions.
The programme, conducted against the regional Macaronesia background, provided an opportunity to study the archipelago’s biodiversity. A wide range of outreach actions were also undertaken. These actions focused on offering better insight into this environment’s richness and beauty and on heightening the general public and young generations’ awareness of its conservation.
The mission through video
An expedition marked by the presence of H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco
The mission is part of the development of cooperation between Cabo Verde and Monaco. After having established diplomatic relations in 2017 and after H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco’s official visit to Cabo Verde during this mission, this cooperation was formalized in 2018 by the conclusion of a framework agreement between the two countries which took place during the Monaco Ocean Week.
During his official visit between 21 and 23 September 2017, H.S.H. Prince Albert II along with the President of the Republic of Cabo Verde, H.E. Mr Jorge Carlos Fonseca, visited the Ocean Science Centre of Mindelo (OSCM) on the island of São Vicente. He then joined the Yersin to be presented with the work undertaken and to observe current research focusing on marine turtles on the island of Boavista.
Highlights of H.S.H. the Sovereign Prince's official visit
Donating one of the five specimens of giant skink: a symbolic gesture.
22 September 2017: H.S.H. Prince Albert II officially donates one of the five specimens of Cabo Verde giant skink, Chioninia coctei, collected by Prince Albert Ist on the islet of Branco in 1901, to the Republic of Cabo Verde. This donation is particularly important as the giant skink is now presumed extinct. As Cabo Verde did not have the opportunity to preserve specimens of this species, this donation is actually considered as a ‘home-coming’ of key genetic, scientific and cultural heritage. This gift led the Cabo Verde President to imagine the creation of a National Natural History Museum, intended for offering the Cabo Verde population better insight into the archipelago’s remarkable biodiversity.
Specimen of giant skink from the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco collections
The five specimens of giant skink are part of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco collections
©Michel Dagnino - Oceanographic Institute - Albert Ist, Prince of Monaco Foundation
Cabo Verde, islet of Branco. Archive images. Albert Ist expedition, 1901 ©Oceanographic Museum of Monaco collections.
Visiting the OSCM
H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco and the President H.E. Mr Jorge Carlos Fonseca visited the Ocean Science Centre of Mindelo (OSCM).
This research centre is co-directed by the Cabo Verde Institute of the Sea and the German Oceanographic Research Centre GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel. It is located in Mindelo, on the island of São Vincente, second most populated island in the archipelago.
The research work carried out by the OSCM focuses on environmental changes through the study of physical phenomena, such as global warming, biogeochemical phenomena, such as ocean acidification and deoxygenation, and ecological phenomena. Humanities and social science projects dealing in particular with the impact of these changes are also undertaken.
Meeting the scientists
H.S.H. Prince Albert II visited the islet of Branco to help pick up the team which had been on-site for the previous 4 days o study the reptiles present in this unexplored area.
During a dinner on-board the sailing vessel, the Yersin, H.S.H. Prince Albert II was given an update on the research carried out by Dr Raquel Vasconcelos, from CIBIO-InBIO, University of Porto, Dr Aurélien Miralles from the National Natural History Museum, Mrs Sónia Araújo-Lopes, Director of the Nature Conservation Department at the Cabo Verde National Environment Department and the naturalist Mr Kenny Delgado (local Biosfera 1 association).
The following morning whilst still on-board the Yersin, Dr Björn Fiedler, GEOMAR researcher, demonstrated to H.S.H. Prince Albert II how the subsea Wave Glider robot worked, which had been transported on the Yersin to be subsequently deployed at the end of the Cabo Verde mission.
Live from the OSCM with 267 primary, college and high school pupils from Monaco, live on Skype from the great Conference Hall in the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco. For this exchange, the pupils from the Principality had prepared some 200 questions!
Participation in a review and exchange workshop led by Dr Christophe Eizaguirre from Queen Mary University of London. This workshop brought together 15 leaders from 10 non-governmental organizations from Cabo Verde and from scientific establishments involved in the protection of marine turtles (TAOLA network). Mrs Sónia Araújo-Lopes, coordinator of the national marine turtle conservation programme was also present.
Visit to the Curral Velho Beach in the south-east of the island of Boa Vista, home to many Loggerhead turtle nests.
Research carried out by local teams focuses on gaining better insight into marine turtles’ lives, studying their movements and their behavioural patterns using different tags, their metabolism and determining the gender of the turtles once they have hatched.
Marine turtle booklet
An environment-focused education booklet in Portuguese was handed over to schoolchildren during the Prince’s visit. 1,400 were printed with the support of Monaco Explorations.
This booklet is disseminated with the kind permission of the Associaçao programa Tatô (marine turtle conservation and sustainable development of natural marine and coastal resources in Portugal and São-Tomé), the ATM – Associação Tartarugas Marinhas in Salvo; the Fundação Maio Biodiversidade; Queen Mary University of London, and through financial support from Monaco Explorations.
Text ©Mrs Sara Viera. Illustrations ©Mr Victor Jimenez.
Cabo Verde, located off the coast of Senegal in the Atlantic Ocean, is an archipelago State comprising ten volcanic islands and eight islets belonging to Macaronesia*. With almost 700,000 km2 under national jurisdiction, the Cabo Verde archipelago hosts a myriad of rich subsea ecosystems for which very little is known due to the lack of resources for the sea and given the remoteness of the sites.
The capital of Cabo Verde, Praia, is located on the largest island, Santiago. The highest point of Cabo Verde stands at 2,829 metres (Pico do Fogo).
*Macaronesia comprises five archipelagos: the Azores, Selvagens (Savage Islands) and Madeira, under the sovereignty of Portugal, the Canary Islands, under the sovereignty of Spain and, finally, the islands of Cabo Verde, an independent Republic since 1975.
Several scientific projects were undertaken from 15 September to 2 October 2017.
- distribution of 500 leaflets on the herpetofauna in the Desertas Islands – Santa Luzia, Branco and Raso! Recovery of the subsea “Bottom-Lander” robot at Senghor Seamount on 15 September and redeploying it off the coast of the island of Santa Luzia on 16 September;
- Commissioning of another robot, the “Wave Glider” on 2 October;
- Study of the herpetofauna of the islet of Branco, from 17 to 21 September;
- Study of Cabo Verde subsea biodiversity by setting up subsea cameras (videoplots) on 17 September;
- Focus on marine turtles: identifying the different sites from 16 to 19 September, meeting with the “TAOLA” network expert group on 21 September, review to Prince Albert II on 22 September followed by a visit to the site of Curral Velho to the south-east of the island of Boa Vista; financing the tags for studying marine turtle behaviour; financing the reprint of an education booklet on marine turtles;
- Study of the megafauna (sharks and manta rays) in Cabo Verde, from 25 September to 1st October.
- Distribution of 500 leaflets on the herpetofauna in the Desertas Islands – Santa Luzia, Branco and Raso throughout the mission.
The first operation was for recovering a Bottom-Lander on a seamount, Senghor Seamount, on 15 September 2017, located at a depth of 112 metres. This 300 kg static robot was immersed on the summit of this seamount and was used for measuring a series of hydrographic and biogeochemical data (temperature, salinity, pressure, oxygen level, fluorescence, turbidity, current sensors, etc.) over a six-month period. The scientists were able to retrieve the recordings and could make analyses before recommissioning it the following day of the coast of the island of Santa Luzia
The second operation consisted in deploying Geomar’s Wave Glider, off the coast of Santa Luzia on 2 October. The Wave Glider is an autonomous surface vehicle propelled by wave energy (up to 1.5 knots) and supplied with electrical power by solar panels. Once set up, it can be remotely managed using satellite communication over a web portal. Data can be real-time viewed and the glider’s route can be modified at any time. The Wave Glider can undertake missions for up to two months in unsupervised mode.
A great team
The team taking part in the operations is comprised of Dr Björn Fiedler, (Geomar Helmholtz-Centre for Ocean Research Kiel), Mrs Luciana Génio, (Centro de Estudos do Ambiente e do Mar, Departamento de Biologia, Universidade de Aveiro), Mrs Jessica Cibelle Fonseca de Matos (Universidade de Cabo Verde), Mrs Corrine Almeida, (Universidade de Cabo Verde – Faculdade de Engenharias e Ciências do Mar), and Mrs Silvana Monteiro Roque (Cabo Verde Government).
Zoom on the Wave Glider
The Wave Glider can be used for a wide range of scientific applications such as a weather station for example. Just like on the Bottom-Lander, this robot comprises numerous sensors (carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, fluorescence, turbidity, temperature and salinity sensors, etc.). It is also equipped with an echo-sounder for fish, a camera and an acoustic receiver for tagged animals. All these measurements can be used to study gas exchanges between air and sea, to map the spatial distribution of the biomass (fish and zooplankton) in the top 100 m of the water column, to observe the variations in the daytime vertical migration of zooplankton and to monitor the abundance of tagged species (sharks, for example) in specific areas.
Studying islet of Branco herpetofauna
The islet of Branco is located 40 nautical miles from Mindelo. Listed as a protected area, it is a real sanctuary for wildlife (marine birds, marine turtles, reptiles, plants and invertebrates). In the past, this islet was home to the Cabo Verde giant skink.
It is extremely difficult to carry out operations on Branco as it is a remote, inhospitable islet. Access to it is complicated and dangerous (no ports or sheltered areas, rocky coastline). Few searchers are granted permission to work here.
Ties between Branco and the Principality of Monaco go far back. Prince Albert Ist of Monaco, through his long-standing friendship with the King of Portugal Don Carlos Ist (see “Oceanographer Sovereigns“, documents collected and commented by Jacqueline Carpine-Lance and Luiz Vieira Caldas Saldanha, 1992) undertook an expedition to Macaronesia and brought back samples of endemic species including the giant skink.
Dr Raquel Vasconcelos’ two main intentions were to detect the potential presence of the giant skink Chioninia coctei and to study the other reptiles present on the island including the giant gecko Tarentola gigas brancoensis, in particular their diet and their role in the trophic chain.
The scientists stayed for four days and three nights on the islet during which they were able to:
- reference three species of reptile Tarentola raziana, Tarentola gigas brancoensis, Chioninia stangeri. They were unable to detect any sign of the past or present existence of the Chioninia coctei,
- set up 9 cameras with automatic triggering for photos and collect samples (reptiles, arthropods, plants),
- observe a large-sized Loggerhead turtle laying eggs, as such confirming that marine turtles lay their eggs on this site,
- identify twelve plant species Zygophyllum, Polycarpaea nivea, Zygophyllum simplex, Graminea Sporobolus, Euphorbia forskaolii, Frankenia ericifolia caboverdeana, Fagonia cretica, Calotropis procera, Sueda vermiculata, Tribulus cistoides, Aizoon canariense, Forsskaolea procridifolia.
Those who took part in the field operation included: Dr Raquel Vasconcelos (CIBIO-InBIO, University of Porto), Dr Aurélien Miralles (MNHN, Paris), Mr Kenny Delgado (NGO Biosfera, Mindelo, Cabo Verde), Mrs Sónia Araújo-Lopes, Ministry for the Environment, representative of the Cabo Verde Government and coordinator of the Cabo Verde national marine turtle conservation programme, a Monaco explorations’ team comprising Mr Robert Calcagno and Mr Pierre Frolla, Lieutenant-Colonel Philippe Rebaudengo, Mr Olivier Borde, a team of journalists, Mr Augusto da Cruz and Mr Daniel Cruz (fishermen from the town of Salamansa, São Vicente) hired as local guides.
The work undertaken on the islet of Branco offered Dr Raquel Vasconcelos the opportunity to supervise a Master’s student, Miss Catarina Pinho for pursuing research on Cabo Verde herpetofauna. Given the quality of this student’s work, she was granted a scholarship in 2019 to undertake a thesis on this subject by the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia.
Cabo Verde marine biodiversity
During the mission, a technique for shooting images was implemented for studying the biodiversity of depths of less than 20 m. This technique consists in setting up cameras fixed on tripods and leaving them to shoot the images with no humans present. Mr Rui Freitas (University of Cabo Verde), Head of the project, tested the technique twice on two different sites. These two trials were sufficient for validating the concept, which will be routinely reproduced subsequently as part of a long-standing project.
These cameras, placed in study areas and working based on a specific protocol, record subsea images of fauna. With this system, the biodiversity inventory (specific diversity, biomass) can be drawn up and the study of the natural behaviour of species carried out without measurements which may be biased given the presence of divers. As such, the presence of new species can be detected and the behaviour of the fauna can provide an indicator of the anthrophic impact (in particular from fishing).
This process can be used to compare different sites and to understand their dynamics.
The Cabo Verde archipelago is the 3rd most important site in the world for the reproduction of the Loggerhead turtle, Caretta caretta, in particular the Boa Vista beaches which host around 65% of the Cabo Verde egg laying sites. The increased development of tourist activities and poaching, which is unfortunately still rife, constitute the main threats for these fragile populations.
The fight against poaching (surveillance of beaches), the increase in the population’s awareness and the involvement of local communities, through local fishermen becoming nature guides, for example, and gaining an income from this new activity, are key to the protection and conservation of Cabo Verde marine turtles.
It is one of the roles of the Fundação Tartaruga (Sea Turtle Foundation)
Monaco Exploration’s objectives were to:
- support the programme for studying marine turtles led by the Sea Turtle Foundation by enabling it to acquire new tags for monitoring marine turtles,
- support the “TAOLA” network bringing together NGOs and different players spread over the 10 islands of the archipelago,
- place media spotlight on Cabo Verde marine turtles by involving political decision-makers like the Mayor of Boa Vista.
Those participating included: the team from the Fundação Tartaruga Sea, Dr Hiltrud Cordes, CEO of the Sea Turtle Foundation (Germany), Dr Christophe Eizaguirre (Queen Mary University London), Mrs Joana Nicolau and Mr Euclides Resende (Fundação Tartaruga, Sea Turtle Foundation branch on the island of Boa Vista) and Mrs Sónia Araújo-Lopes.
Studying the megafauna
Seamounts and shoals, characteristic of Cabo Verde waters, host rich megafauna, in particular rays, including manta rays, and many sharks, especially whale sharks and tiger sharks. These fish, which have been but little studied due to a lack of resources for the sea, are greatly impacted by intensive fishing.
- 2 teams involved
- the team from the NGO MarAlliance,
- Professor David Mouillot’s team (Marbec joint research unit (UMR) – University of Montpellier)
MarAlliance has several bases at Cabo Verde, in the Honduras, in Micronesia, and in Panama. The teams carry out work on sharks and manta rays by monitoring the migration of the animals using satellite tracking and observations from subsea baited cameras. A permanent group is based on the small island of Boa Vista, in Sal Rei.
- the team placed two Spot 6-type tags on manta rays Manta birostris;
- Study of a bignose shark, Carcharhinus altimus, 2.5 m long and a tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvieri, 3.55 m long.
- Placing a tag on a whale shark, Ryncodon typus, a 5 metre-long female which was tagged and immediately afterwards filmed and photographed.
A year after these operations, MarAlliance successfully illustrated the journey which the female tiger shark, which had been tagged, made. She migrated off the coast of Brazil before heading back to Cabo Verde. Details of her journey can be found here.
Professor Mouillot's team
The team led by Professor Mouillot successfully set up a system of baited subsea cameras many times frequently in highly-treacherous sea conditions. The videos recorded confirmed the presence of high-sea predators, hammerhead sharks, mahi-mahi, wahoo and marlin, but this presence was low and discreet.
An exhibition and 2 virtual-reality films on the mission
A photographic exhibition comprising 24 images was created and inaugurated at the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco following Monaco Explorations campaign in Macaronesia. This exhibition is a travelling one.
Hand-in-hand with the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco’s Events Department, two short films were made based on a myriad of 360° images shot by Fabrice Schnoller. These two films, entitled “Meeting the Monk Seal” and “The Mystery of Giant Lizards”, are currently proposed to Museum visitors. Viewing goggles were also purchased for use when the exhibit travels.
The Principality of Monaco would like to express its very warm thanks to:
- the Republic of Cabo Verde, in particular H.E. Mr Jorge Carlos Fonseca, President of the Republic of Cabo Verde,
- Gilberto Correia Carvalho Silva, Minister for Agriculture and the Environment and his teams including Mrs Sónia Araújo-Lopes and Mrs Silvana Monteiro-Roque,
- José da Silva Gonçalves, Minister for the Economy and Employment
- All the Government of the Republic of Cabo Verde, H.E. Mr José Luís Fialho Rocha, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Mrs Jeanne Brito Salhab, Ambassador of the Republic of Cabo Verde in France, Mr Carlos Ferreira Santos, Honorary Consul of Germany in the Republic of Cabo Verde, Mr José Luís Santos, Mayor of Boa Vista and all the official bodies which made this mission possible and enabled fruitful exchanges between the two countries on diplomatic, scientific and cultural levels.
Prof. Peter Herzig, Mrs Cordula Zenk and Dr Björn Fiedler from Geomar Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research, Dr Osvaldina Silva and Mr Nuno Vieira from the Instituto Nacional de Desenvolvimento das Pescas, Prof. Astrigilda Silveira, Dr António Carlos Varela and Mr Rui Freitas from the University of Cabo Verde, Dr Christophe Eizaguirre, from Queen Mary University of London, Dr Hiltrud Cordes, Mr Euclides Resende, Mrs Joana Nicolau, Mr Senior Cruz, from the Turtle Foundation, Dr Raquel Vasconcelos from the CIBIO-InBIO, University of Porto, Dr Aurélien Miralles from the Natural History Museum of Paris, Mr Kenny Delgado, field assistant, Mr Augusto da Cruz and Mr Daniel Cruz, fishermen and local guides, Salamansa.