AFTER MORE THAN FOUR YEARS SAILING AROUND THE WORLD AND THE ARCTIC, TARA WILL BE ON MISSION IN THE MEDITERRANEAN FROM MAY TO NOVEMBER 2014, WITH TWO OBJECTIVES: TO ACCOMPLISH A SCIENTIFIC STUDY CONCERNING PLASTIC POLLUTION, AND TO PROMOTE AWARENESS OF ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES IN THE MEDITERRANEAN REGION.
450 million people live along the Mediterranean coasts in 22 bordering countries. Due to its geography and climate, the Mediterranean Sea hosts close to 8% of global marine biodiversity, although representing only 0.8% of the ocean’s surface. Today’s cities are saturated and almost 30% of the world’s maritime traffic is concentrated in the Mediterranean. Problems related to pollution from land are increasing, putting pressure on the marine ecosystem essential for the people of the region, and for life in general. Among the pollutants is the growing presence of micro-plastics. These are most likely incorporated into the food chain, and thus into our diets. It is therefore urgent to find concrete solutions such as water treatment, waste management, biodegradable plastics, promotion of sustainable tourism, and the creation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) – solutions proposed decades ago by the Barcelona Convention, the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity, and also by the European Union.
This expedition, the schooner’s tenth since 2003, is an opportunity for Tara Expeditions Foundation to promote the efforts of local and regional associations* on many environmental issues concerning this almost-closed sea.
A scientific study on plastic will be conducted aboard Tara coordinated by the Laboratoire de Villefranchesur-mer (Université Pierre et Marie Curie and CNRS) and the University of Michigan (USA). The accumulation of plastic debris in nature is “one of the most ubiquitous and long-lasting recent changes to the surface of our planet…” (Barnes et al, 2009), and one of the major environmental concerns of our time. Yet we know too little about what happens to these plastics and their role in ecosystem dynamics to predict their future impacts on the oceans of our planet and on humans.
To fill this gap, scientists board Tara will undertake an interdisciplinary mission to better understand the impacts of plastic on the Mediterranean ecosystem. They will quantify plastic fragments, and measure their size and weight. They will also identify the types of plastic (and adhering organic pollutants) found in the sea, and study the dynamics and function of microbial communities (bacteria, protozans, micro-algae, molluscs, crustaceans) living on the plastic. Included in the latter are questions about the probable entry of these molecules into the food chain – a subject virtually unexplored in the Mediterranean.
A traveling exhibition and films will be shared with the public. We will also welcome classes aboard at each stopover. Artists will be in residence on Tara for the duration of the expedition.
agnès b., Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, Veolia Foundation, Serge Ferrari, IDEC, UNESCO-IOC, MedPAN, Surfrider Foundation, Lorient Agglomeration, Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development of Energy, IUCN, CNRS, AFP, RFI, France 24, MCD
THE SCIENTIFIC PARTNERS
Oceanography Laboratory of Villefranche-sur-Mer, CNRS, University of Michigan, University of Maine, NASA, Free University of Berlin, Pierre and Marie Curie University, IFREMER, Oceanological Observatory of Banyuls, University Bretagne Sud, Toulon University South University Aix Marseille Université de Corse.
*LOCAL AND REGIONAL ASSOCIATIONS INVOLVED TO DATE:
Expedition MED, Mohammed VI Foundation for the Environment, Acquario di Cala Gonone.
UNDER THE HIGH PATRONAGE OF JANEZ POTOČNIK, MEMBER OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION (IN CHARGE OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS)