A Stopover in Tunisia

© M.Domingos/Tara Expéditions

5 September 2014

Tara’s visit mobilized Bizerte citizens on all fronts, from oceanography to recycling plastic. 

Tara arrived on Monday, September 1 at the Marina in Bizerte (Tunisia) in heavy seas and a steady wind of 35 knots. This didn’t stop Bizerte’s Nautical Sports Club from welcoming the crew with their dinghy and kayak.

The stopover’s program was rich and varied, conceived in close collaboration with local associations and institutions, including We Love Bizerte. Researchers, leaders of local and national institutions, environmental protection associations and plastic recyclers, and several prominent local citizens mobilized to welcome Tara opposite the beautiful old port.

From the first day of the stopover, the Bizertans hastened aboard Tara to discover or take another look at the schooner which had already visited here 5 years ago, at the beginning of the Tara Oceans expedition. Over 300 children and 600 adults came to see the boat and learn more about pollution on beaches and waste management, thanks to the Association for the Protection of the Coast which held an educational workshop on the dock.

At Bizerte, plastic pollution is a big issue, considering the almost total absence of sorting of garbage, and the impressive number of plastic bags visible along Tunisian roads. But the desire to change — to organize and reduce pollution in the Mediterranean — is definitely present. After all, the sea is the main resource of the country! The initiative to clean the beach of the Corniche, organized in collaboration with local associations was a success, with nearly 150 volunteers and more than a ton of waste collected! In the end, a demonstration of different materials and a lively debate on selective sorting culminated in a moving testimony of a waste collector, who stressed the importance of public awareness for sorting — almost non-existent in Tunisia.

The Tara team was welcomed on Thursday, September 4th by the dean and researchers from the Bizerte Faculty of Sciences for a full day of scientific conferences. Eric Karsenti, scientific director of Tara Oceans, gave a presentation of the results from that expedition for the oceanographers and researchers who were involved in the project 5 years ago. The Tara Mediterranean program was then presented by scientist Marie Barbieux, with details about the research being performed on microplastics and marine organisms. Tunisian experts then presented local work on issues important to the southern shore of the Mediterranean, such as the proliferation of jellyfish, and pollution of the lake and the Bay of Bizerte.

Tara also organized a workshop on local and regional environmental issues where major players on the local scene met for a lively debate about the pressures, obstacles, needs and ways of cooperating to reduce pollution and the impacts of human activities on the sea and coast.
The mayor of Bizerte, North Bizerte’s representative, and the cultural attaché from the French Embassy in Tunis came to visit the boat, in the presence of the media. Bertrand Delanoë (former Mayor of Paris) also came to visit the Tara team here in the town where he grew up.

Thank you for this exceptional week in Bizerte. We leave now for the island of La Galite, a Marine Protected Area since 1995, for a brief stopover before Algiers.

André Abreu and Nils Haëntjens

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