Tara's Engagement for the Environment | Tara, a schooner for the planet

Tara’s Engagement for the Environment

© J.Girardot/Tara Expéditions

Tara pour le developpement durable et la biodiversite des Oceans

For 10 years, Tara Expeditions has been organizing scientific missions with 2 main objectives: to study and understand marine ecosystems, and to educate and inform the general public on issues concerning the world’s oceans. The project was born from the commitment and vision of its founders, Etienne Bourgois and agnès b, and their real passion for the sea.

The present crisis confronting marine ecosystems is so serious that everyone must become involved in the search for innovative solutions for sustainable management of marine resources. The expertise of Tara Expedtions has evolved considerably as a result of our voyages. We are increasingly sought after to communicate on environmental issues. We’ve been invited to participate in major conferences such as the Grenelle de la Mer in France, and the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development  organized by the United Nations.

Tara Expeditions is currently developing a long-term advocacy plan, and has a project manager working specifically on this. We also participate in many forums, aiming to develop and promote marine policies that will ensure a healthy future for our blue planet. We want to make alliances with other NGOs, especially on vital issues such as sustainable management of the High Seas and the Arctic, establishment of protected marine reserves, etc. We consider this a civil responsibility more than a political commitment. Our entire society must confront these issues head on.

Motivation

Our motivation to work on environmental issues concerning the oceans is mainly based upon:

- The need to give greater visibility to marine issues within the field of ecology and sustainable development
Decision-making for sustainable development dramatically ignores the ecological problems of the oceans, focusing on the traditional ‘green’ view of ecology. It is therefore urgent to educate politicians and decision makers about the challenges facing the world’s oceans, and encourage the negotiation process. A concrete example is the structure of the future French Agency for Biodiversity, where  coastal areas and oceans have been allotted only 5% of the agency’s loans and services. France is the second maritime territory in the world (in size), yet lobbies for the defense of ‘terrestrial’ biodiversity  are ten to twenty times more numerous than those defending the oceans.

- Communicate to a wider audience
Research institutions and environmental organizations are most often involved in very specific agendas, using language often inaccessible to the general public. As a result, major issues often remain ‘invisible’. After ten years of expeditions and educational activities, Tara has developed expertise and a network to link science, environmental issues and the general public, through communication tools such as films, exhibitions, books, and the internet.

Which issues take priority for Tara Expeditions?

• Governance of the High Seas

The realm of the High Seas seems to be of little concern to most people, yet it plays a vital role in our climate, our food, the products and energy we consume, our knowledge, our security, and even the air we breathe. International ocean governance is yet to be established even though the High Seas – areas outside the coastal zones, called Exclusive Economic Zones – represent more than half the surface of the planet!

This is why Tara Expeditions has organized this last April a conference in cooperation with the Economic Social Environmental Council – « High Seas, the Future of Humanity: what governance for sustainable management of the ocean? » and launch the Paris Appeal for the High Seas.

The Rio+20 summit organized by the United Nations in 2012 proposed concrete goals and timetables. France can and should play a major role on this issue. We must mobilize policy makers, the industrial and associative world, and society in general, to pursue the commitments announced at Rio+20 by Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations.

• The Arctic

Melting ice, new shipping routes, oil and gas resources –  the Arctic is at the front lines of climate change. This unique and fragile ecosystem is increasingly coveted for its mineral wealth, and at the same time a key region for understanding the effects of climate change and the adaptation necessary for the planet.

• The conservation of marine biodiversity

Marine biodiversity is threatened by multiple aggressions on global ecosystems: various pollutants (toxic products, plastics, waste, chemical molecules of all kinds), ocean warming and acidification.
As for fishing, we outrageously exploit only 2% of resources (fish, crustaceans) and ignore the immense potential of  ‘invisible’ marine resources. The oceans of the world are largely under-exploited, or poorly exploited.

• Management of pollution from land

While we know that nearly 80% of marine pollution comes from land through estuaries and pollution of freshwater, the question of proper water management and sanitation is still receiving little attention in the world of marine ecology. There is still a lot to be done so that the problem of freshwater pollution will be recognized as essential to the health of the oceans and seas.