Interview with Etienne Bourgois, President of Tara Expeditions

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5 June 2014

Interview with Etienne Bourgois, President of Tara Expeditions

A new expedition, a new base for Tara in Paris, a new website, the  launch of an Ocean and Climate platform on the occasion of World Ocean Day – Etienne Bourgois provides an update on all the exciting news about Tara during the month of June.

The expedition is launched and the scientific part of Tara Mediterranean began this week…

Tara is primarily a research boat, so this is a good thing! I am especially pleased that the scientific aspect of the expedition has expanded in recent weeks with more universities and institutes getting involved  under the direction of Gaby Gorsky, director of the Observatoire Oceanologique de Villefranche sur mer.

Let’s not forget that we are also devoting 50% of the time on this mission to raising awareness about environmental issues. We also aim to publish a “blue book” at the end of these 7 months in the Mediterranean.

A few days ago we welcomed an artist aboard. In all, there will be 11 artists-in-residence with carte blanche to do their projects. This is a unique experience for them, but also for the scientists and sailors they will cohabit with aboard Tara!

What message do you especially want to transmit?

A message of determination concerning the environment. Unfortunately the wheel of time is turning quickly, and the reactions of politicians are slow. We need to act now and adopt strong orientations.

Have there been any special moments since you’ve been in the Mediterranean?

Yes, I went aboard Tara in Port-Cros in early May during the study of deep coralline led by Laurent Ballesta’s team and the Agence de l’Eau. Laurent showed me extraordinary photos proving that the establishment of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) has had excellent results, and the Mediterranean ecosystem is extraordinary. The MPAs often lack resources and are still too few to cover 10% of the sea by 2020, the goal set by the Convention on Biological Diversity.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the very professional crew–motivated, cooperative, modest, etc.

June 8 is World Ocean Day. How is Tara’s outreach program progressing on a political level?

This year’s World Ocean Day – June 10th – will be the occasion for a series of events targeting young people and the press, held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, with the launch of the Ocean and Climate Platform 2015.  Spurred by a small group of founders including Tara, the platform will bring together active citizens and scientists committed to a major goal: strengthening the role of the Ocean during  international discussions on climate, particularly with the COP 21 coming up next year in Paris.

Another source of satisfaction: the UN has just released the first version of a text concerning goals for sustainable development. “Conservation and sustainable use of marine resources” are on the list, along with 11 other goals. André Abreu, Tara Expeditions’ project manager, was involved in this effort at the UN.

 Tara’s new website is on the program for mid-June…

Yes, we needed a new interface, more adapted to new technologies, for better communication of our messages. The new site, created in partnership with Agence 76, will be easier to use, more visual, and will be organized around the 4 major missions of Tara Expeditions: science, environment, education and art.

Tara Expeditions also has a new space: the Base Tara…

Yes, it’s the rear base of Tara. The land team, led by Romain Troublé, has offices there. This is a magical place near the Bastille, full of light. We can host exhibitions, conferences, meetings for school groups, projections, etc.

The first exhibition, “The Secret World of Plankton” just started on Monday, and will remain open to the public until June 26. With his experience as an artist-in-residence aboard Tara, Rémi Hamoir, Professor at the Ecole des Arts Deco, proposed to teachers and first-year students to work on a creative project  around the theme: “Tara and the secret world of plankton.”

A damper on your current actions?

Despite the support and commitment of agnès b from the beginning, the budget is still not complete. It’s  a constant stress that prevents us from better preparing the medium term. This can sometimes be discouraging.  I wish to repeat here that no donation is too small!

In this regard what are your future projects?

We are preparing a project that requires a two-year budget. It’s a major scientific program about coral reefs. It requires at least 12-18 months of preparation, and we’ve already been hard at work for 3 months.

Is Tara’s 10th year a milestone, or the beginning of a second life?

We are in continuity. Over the last10 years we have done 10 expeditions, and all of them had real meaning. This is our treasure. Our projects have the distinction of being initiated by individuals who form a group, and not by companies or institutions.
I hope that other projects like Tara will be born in the world.

What can we wish you?

To complete our funding as soon as possible, and encounter favorable winds in the Mediterranean!