Sentinel monitors Harmful Algal Blooms
Hailu Wudineh
31 January 2018
When colonies of microscopic algae grow out of control in the water bodies, Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) can occur. HAB produce toxins that cause massive fish deaths, poison shellfish beds, and contribute to human illness and death. Thanks to Sentinel-3's , it is possible to track HABs.

Sentinel-3's Ocean and Land Colour Instrument (OLCI) sees and detect Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) by using ocean color measurements.

OLCI allows biogeochemical measurements like concentrations of Chlorophyll a — the photosynthetic pigment of phytoplankton (algae) — and suspended sediments. Using a time series of OLCI images, the bloom can be tracked. A threshold of the Chl-a concentration can be set, and the first time that this is exceeded within a season can be calculated. This can give insight in to the typical progression of these events in space and time, a useful predictor for aquaculture farms in the region.

The Africa continent is surrounded by the Atlantic and Indian oceans together with two seas, the Mediterranean and Red Sea. According to a study in 2015, the Western Indian Ocean fishing zone alone produced 4,659,209 tons of fish.

The GMES and Africa Support Programme intends to use Sentinel data to provide marine and land services through 13 regional implementing centre for the entire Africa Continent.

Source EUMETSAT, Courtesy @PaulCounet , Jan 30, Ref.
Detection of harmful algal blooms in the southern Benguela, as seen by OLCI aboard Sentinel-3.

More information


GMES and AFRICA Support Programme (G&A)
  • G&A is a 30 million Euro joint programme co-financed by the European Commission and the African Union Commission.
  • It will use and adapt the Copernicus Programme data and services to the African context. It is designed to specifically respond to African needs with respect to services related to water, natural resources, marine and coastal areas and to address the global needs to manage the environment, mitigate climate change and ensure civil security. It is to enable the implementation of the African Space Policy and Strategy, formulated to harness the continent’s capabilities in utilizing space science and technology for economic growth and sustainable development. In the implementation agreement, the African Union Commission is the ‘delegated authority’ responsible for the management of the programme.
  • GMES and Africa Programme aimed at improving African policy-makers’, planners’, scientists’, business and private sector and citizens’ capacities to design, implement, and monitor national, regional and continental policies and to promote sustainable management of natural resources through the use of Earth Observation data and derived information.
  • GMES and Africa introduced several key innovations: for the first time, with the inclusion of the North African countries, the Programme is pan African. It is totally managed by the African Union Commission, through the Human Resource, Science and Technology (HRST) Department. It engages the African private sector and national and regional academia.