Towards Leveraging EO Services and Capacity Building Facilities for North African Countries: The G&A NafCOAST Best Practices

One of main EU-AU partnerships is the space technology and its applications and how to leverage African capacities in earth observation applications for sustainable development and achieving Africa's Agenda 2063. NAfCOAST project is part of GMES and Africa program, which is an excellent opportunity to improve EO services and strengthen the partnership.  

Sustainable use of marine resources requires effective monitoring and management of its resources and preserve its environment. Mediterranean Sea is one of the rich marine resources to the north African countries. NAfCOAST project is mainly aiming at the development of methodologies and services that potentially use these resources and offer some good management tools to wide spectrum of stakeholders and beneficiaries (e.g. policy and decision makers, practitioners and planners, and public).  

NAfCOAST is funded by the African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) throughout GMES and Africa Program. The project is planned to achieve three main goals at this stage, of which the first two goals are focusing to offer two main crucial services: 

1) increasing the fishing yield of the southern part of the Mediterranean Sea and; 
2) diminish the environmental impacts of the excessive oil pollution along the southern coast.

Both targeted services are conducted through the advanced remote sensing technologies and accessibility of European Space Agency data. This requested to collaborate with as much countries and/or parties as possible, and successfully, NAfCOAST gathered 4 partners (NARSS, CERT, CDU and IMROP) from 4 north African's (Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Mauritania) and 1 regional organization (CEDARE). 

The important third goal of this project and reflected in the partnership is

3) to develop the EO capacity across the North African countries (during the project implementation) and ensure the continuity after the project termination. 

This could be conducted by several means, among which the face-to-face training, class room setting and, online webinars, that would be provided to the project partners. Moreover, further training program is planned to be offered in the near future for stakeholders (e.g. a mentoring video is been prepared for all interesting parties on how NAfCOAST services could be developed). 

Fig 1&2 - Examples of the training screens during the training workshops (conducted on line) for both services of NAfCOAST provided by NARSS to the whole consortia

With regards to the first aim, the project provides robust service that help interesting authorities and/or people to produce a frequent map for the most potential area for fishing, and a broad range of beneficiaries and public to secure their economic development. 

This service depends mainly on detecting the suitable conditions for each fish species and use the available data sources (e.g. Sentinel 3, MODIS and, ancillary data) to map the potential fishing zone (PFZ) of each kind of fish. 

The favorable conditions of temperature and Chlorophyll-a are estimated from satellite data for each fish species to generate the PFZ, that are validated against real catch. 

Next maps show example of the determined PFZ within the Egyptian economic zone in the Mediterranean Sea during different months/seasons of the year for the round genus of Sardinella, Sardinella aurita (Valenciennes, 1847). Similar maps of PFZ are been generated for each partner's along the coastal zone, which will generate seamless layer for the whole Mediterranean coastal zone.

Fig. 3, 4 & 5 - Favorable conditions of temperature and chlorophyll-a together with a PFZ map for part of the Mediterranean Sea Economic zone of Egypt in October, 2018

The remotely sensed data provide near-real time data and information and help on one side the fishermen saving fuel and shipping time during their search for fish, and on the other side the modelers in fisheries forecasts and the scientists to develop advanced methods and strategies for sustainable management of this vital economic sector.

The second goal of NAfCOAST project is to better manage oil pollution and dense shipping and navigation which are dramatically harming marine ecosystem and create pressure on the coastal socio-economic activities. 

This service enables operational monitoring of oil pollution at the time of the events and afterwards, since it is anticipated that the damage of oil spills is not only during the event but it extends for a long time and normally requires more efforts to remediate and recover the environment. 

Suez Canal being a main international Maritime shipping route and the entrance of the canal in the Mediterranean Sea experience frequent events of oil pollution. The source of pollution is mainly from illegal discharges from vessels that represent nearly 45% of sea oil pollution worldwide. Unfortunately, most of these pollution events are small in size and not easily observed by environment agencies or local authorities. Early detection of these spills is the first and most important step for a successful clean-up operation. 

The following figures shows some important oil accidents and how the proposed service provides a series of maps for several oil spill events along the Egyptian Mediterranean coast. 

Fig. 6 - Oil spill clustering of the large oil spill in the Mediterranean Sea facing Port Said City using a background window size of 500 pixels and a threshold shift of 3.5 dB and wind vector calculations (A) = raw data; (B) = clustered oil spill; (C) = superimpose of the clustered oil spillover raw data, and; (D) = superimposed by wind vector layer). Area 24 Km2

This service is mainly focusing on the use of space-borne Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) images (from Sentinel 1 satellite) for oil spill detection and mapping to be an enabler for operational monitoring. SAR sensors can capture images day and night and are not affected by weather conditions. Their wide swaths cover large geographical areas. The open access of data from ESA is more efficient to enable for getting the required data on time.

This study also illustrates different oil discrimination methods from SAR images to provide a high level of confidence in the detection results. The freely available Sentinel-1 data can be continuously used for monitoring and alarming pollution cases in the Canal area which is important for environmental agencies and governmental authorities.

Hence, it is now anticipated to create an operational model to detect and map oil pollution that supports decision makers and beneficiaries for coastal and marine socio-economic sustainability through the production of oil spills hazards map (see fig 6 & 7 below).

Figures 6&7 - Hazards map of the oil spills near the Suez Canal entrance.

All the products:

More Information

This publication
Prof. Elham Mahmoud ALI, 
Head - Department of of Environmental Sciences
Suez University

The Nafcoast Project
Prof. Islam Abou El-Magd
Tel: +2 02 26251286 / +2010 6634 3915
Email: imagd[at]