Introducing Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science

Claire Taylor - Plankton Analyst, SAHFOS UK

Sir Alister Hardy at work

Sir Alister Hardy was employed as a fishery biologist when he embarked on a two year voyage to the Antarctic on the ship 'Discovery' in 1925, taking with him a prototype 'Continuous Plankton Recorder' (CPR). On his return he developed a smaller version of the CPR for use on merchant ships and this model was used on the first tow of the Survey which began in September 1931 from Hull, England to Bremen, Germany. With only minor modifications and the addition of modern oceanographic sensors, the design is what is still being used routinely today.

In 1939 the CPR Survey began tows into the North Atlantic Ocean and 1959 saw the first trans-Atlantic tow undertaken to Newfoundland, Canada. By 1997, we had expanded into the Pacific Ocean, towing from Alaska to California. From 2000 a regular route began from Vancouver, Canada to Japan and five years later the Survey expanded into the Southern Atlantic. During 2009 we extended our routes into the European Arctic . Potential areas for the future include extending into the Russian Arctic.

Continuous Plankton Recorder 1930s







The CPR Survey was based in Hull until 1950 when it moved to Edinburgh, Scotland and in 1976 the whole survey relocated to the IMER Laboratory (now Plymouth Marine Laboratory) in Plymouth, UK. From 1990 the company operated as a registered charity known as the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS) and moved to its present location at Citadel Hill, Plymouth in 1993.


Continuous Plankton Recorder 2011

The Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS) has been collecting data from the North Atlantic and North Sea since 1931. With almost 500,000 samples analysed, 500 taxa counted and approaching 5 million miles towed, makes us the longest, most geographically extensive marine biological survey in the world. There are approximately 30 dedicated staff based at Plymouth, composed of analysts, technicians, researchers and administrative staff who, along with the goodwill and support of merchant ships, all play a paramount role in our success.






The SAHFOS Lab 2011

In September 2011 we celebrated our 80th Anniversary with 'Plankton 2011', a hugely successful series of lectures and poster presentations delivered by marine scientists from all over the world. The SAHFOS science strategy in place today focuses our attention on the concepts of 'Going Global 'and 'Going Complete'.

Our ultimate aim is to develop the CPR Survey for sampling the plankton environment into new areas. The kick off GACS workshop provided a good foundation to help us achieve this and through international collaboration with our GACS partners we can gain a better understanding of global plankton biodiversity.

North Atlantic Route Map as of 2010