Tara in Paris until July 19th 2020: the Ocean comes to town

From the estuary to the quays, the research schooner Tara has sailed up the Seine, passing through its locks and is currently doing an exceptional stopover in Paris until July 19th 2020. This is an opportunity for the Tara Ocean Foundation to share our research with the general public and students of the Paris area. Come and discover 16 years of research and exploration of the Ocean and embark on a guided tour! On deck, we invite you to travel, dream and discover the major issues linked to the Ocean and its preservation. Biodiversity, climate, food, oxygen… The future of humanity depends on the Ocean.

All information about Tara’s stopover in Paris and booking here! 

An event intended to awaken wonder and promote commitment 

The research schooner Tara, representing the Tara Ocean Foundation, is currently docked in Paris. Through guided tours of the legendary boat, we invite you to travel, dream and discover. On the eve of the 2020, what if we take a fresh look at our relationship with the Ocean and marine biodiversity?

Visiting Tara

During the week and the weekend, from June 13 to July 19, the Tara Ocean Foundation will be happy to welcome you aboard to learn about the schooner and the various instruments used for scientific research. Children are welcome as long as they are accompanied. Unfortunately, the access on Tara is not adapted to welcome people with reduced mobility and animals are not accepted on board.


Book your ticket here (online registration only) !

Please bring your ticket, digital or printed, for your visit!

During the week (except Tuesdays): from 2 pm to 6 pm 

During the weekend: from 10 am to noon and from 2 pm to 6 pm

Exceptional opening on Tuesday 14 July: 10am to 12pm and from 2pm to 6pm

Last day of opening on July 19th from 10am to noon only

Tariff : 5€ / free for children under 12 years old

Quai de Seine (left bank), Alexandre III bridge, 75007 Paris

Between Pont des Invalides and Pont Alexandre III
Metro: Lines 8, 13 and RER C at Invalides / Lines 1 and 13 at Champs-Elysée Clemenceau

Facebook event

Stopover partners


Major partners

Banner PARIS 2020-page-001

Heading into a new year

Looking at the horizon for 2020, this will be the year of biodiversity and climate. To start off, the Tara Ocean Foundation will invite the general public to join us in Paris! Leaving the maintenance site in Lorient, Tara will sail up the Seine and dock in Paris from March 2 to April 12, to share with the widest audience possible our scientific expeditions and knowledge.
Also planned for 2020 is a major new mission. By the end of the year, the schooner will set sail on new adventures focusing on marine biodiversity, often invisible to the naked eye, yet essential to sustaining life on Earth. Discover the highlights of our commitments to the Ocean for 2020.

2020, the year of the biodiversity

Clown_Fish©Vincent_Hilaire_Fondation_Tara_Ocean©Vincent Hilaire / Tara Ocean Foundation

2020 UN Ocean Conference: a high-level conference on the ocean

Aboard Tara, the Tara Ocean Foundation will join a major international meeting aiming to preserve the seas and oceans: the second edition of the UN Ocean Conference, will take place in Lisbon (Portugal) from June 2 to 6, 2020. The UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14) and its implementation will be central. New commitments are to be expected (compared with the first edition of June 2017), focusing mainly on science and innovation.

The IUCN World Conservation Congress will be held in Marseille (France) from June 11 to 19, 2020

This world congress brings together a large network of stakeholders (policy makers, civil society, indigenous peoples, academics, economic players, etc.) to preserve nature in the face of the challenges posed by human activities and their impact on the planet. This is a key step in view of the UN Biodiversity Conference, to be held in October 2020. Docked in Marseille during the congress, Tara will support advocacy actions for Marine Protected Areas, especially in Antarctica and the Pacific Ocean, where France plays a key role at the regional level.

COP15 to the Convention on Biological Diversity – China

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), adopted by 168 countries at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, established an international legal framework for the conservation and use of biodiversity. In an international context increasingly aware of the challenges related to preservation of biodiversity, the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15), scheduled to be held in China in October 2020, will provide an opportunity to redefine ocean protection goals, with a renewed ambition to implement Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). In connection with the activities proposed in Marseille during the World Conservation Congress, Tara will support proposals for effective and well-managed MPAs, based on the best scientific criteria that particularly address the climate challenge.

Fourth session of the Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ)

The fourth session of the conference will be held at the United Nations headquarters in New York in March and early April 2020. In the face of persistent disagreements, a postponement of the end of the negotiations, scheduled for 2020, is to be expected, leading to a delay in the approval of the treaty regulating activities in the high seas. Present as a UN Special Observer, the Tara Ocean Foundation will advocate an ambitious, universal and binding treaty with strong ambitions for international scientific cooperation.

COP26: first assessment meeting 5 years after the Paris Agreement

In keeping with the “Blue COP25” that took place in Madrid in 2019, political recognition of the ocean’s role in climate regulation now requires integration into national action plans. For the Tara Ocean Foundation, ensuring that science is recognized as the basis for informed and appropriate decision-making will remain our main challenge.

Around plastic: implementation of national commitments

2019_06_08_Ramassage_Dechets_Scolaires_Mains©Marilou_Bourdreux_Fondation_Tara_OceanCollecting plastic waste with students in St Malo  (2019) © Marilou Bourdreux / Tara Ocean Foundation

Following the vote by the National Assembly to ban the sale (and distribution) of single-use plastic packaging in France, the first provisions will be implemented on January 1, 2020, with the prohibition of non-recyclable plastic cups, disposable plates and plastic cotton buds, as well as the use of plastic water bottles in school canteens.
The ultimate goal of banning plastic has been postponed until 2040. It is unrealistic to believe that a single solution exists, immediately applicable to plastics in the environment. The use of plastic, its applications, volume and indispensability, as well as the complex issues related to using alternative materials, all imply that we must act at different levels, by applying solutions throughout the life cycle of plastic – from manufacturing to recycling and reuse – and changing our production and consumer habits.

Romain Troublé, executive director of the Tara Ocean Foundation
Etienne Bourgois, president and co-founder of the Tara Ocean Foundation
André Abreu, Director of International Policies, Tara Ocean Foundation

Tara is back in the Mediterranean Sea to track pollution from rivers

Tara is once again studying plastic waste in the Mediterranean Sea. The Tara Ocean Foundation’s long-lasting interest in plastics is fully justified. The issue has become so important that the word “continent” is often used when referring to the billions of tons of plastic fragments scattered in the oceans. Five years after Tara’s first expedition dedicated to plastic pollution at sea, research is still under way. The behavior of plastics and their impact on marine biodiversity are still poorly understood.

2014: Assessing the amount of plastic and studying its relationship with living organisms

For almost 10 years, Tara scientists have been investigating the problem of plastics at sea. After observing that plastic litter is absolutely everywhere, the 2014 Tara Mediterranean expedition revealed that microplastics in this semi-enclosed sea are 4 times more concentrated than in the North Pacific Gyre. Tara scientists also studied the living organisms associated with these tiny fragments.

Today, they define plastic material as “a new ecosystem because “some microorganisms that are a minority in the water column have found a new habitat where they feel particularly good and therefore proliferate”, explains Jean-François Ghiglione, a CNRS ecotoxicologist and scientific director of the new 2019 Microplastics mission.

2019_07_28_Hoedic_Huitre-plastique©Lucas_Blijdorp_Fondation_Tara_OceanA piece of polystyrene found inside an oyster © Lucas Blijdorp / Tara Ocean Foundation

2019: Studying plastic flux to combat its dispersion

Building upon the early work quantifying and qualifying microplastics from the Mediterranean Sea, the schooner has returned to study this semi-enclosed sea. Tara is, of course, navigating in the open sea, but also sailing up 3 major rivers that flow from Spain (Ebro), Italy (Tiber) and France (Rhone) into the Mediterranean Sea. Motivating the Tara Ocean Foundation’s new 2019 Microplastics mission is the fact that 80% of plastic material at sea comes from land and microplastics represent 60 to 80% of all plastic debris present in rivers.

DCIM101MEDIADJI_0007.JPGSampling of microorganisms and microplastics in the Ebro River (Spain) using a Manta net © François Aurat / Tara Ocean Foundation

Given the severity of plastic pollution and the lack of research on the problem, the urgency is all the more pressing. “Since the problem of plastics has no solution at sea, we need to understand the sources represented by rivers and identify the unique characteristics of each of them”, Jean-François Ghiglione says.

Scientists aboard Tara are taking samples of water, microplastics and plankton, at sea, in estuaries, as well as in key locations along the rivers to assess the impact of major cities.

“We will also investigate the microorganisms living on microplastic debris, and other organisms, such as mussels, oysters, sea urchins and bass, to understand the bioaccumulation of pollutants attached to plastics.” In addition to these measurements, a model will be designed on the scale of the Mediterranean basin allowing scientists to describe and compare the influences of these 3 rivers regarding plastic influx to the Mediterranean Sea.

Margaux Gaubert, journalist

Indonesia: the Ocean is choking with plastic

A  4-day technical stopover in the Indonesian province of Sorong was a sobering moment for the Taranauts. As soon as we disembarked, we were shocked by the extent of the pollution. A city of more than 200 000 inhabitants, Sorong is buried under plastic waste — unfortunately not an exception in Indonesia, the largest archipelago in the world.


Water ballet of plastic

Sandbanks bordering the city are overflowing with detritus: disposable objects, oil cans, flipflops, cigarette lighters. The owners of many small shops lined up along the road dump their trash bins directly onto the sandbanks. People just stretch out their arms to get rid of what they no longer want. Hundreds of plastic bottles float down the open channels dug near houses to evacuate sewage. Like 80% of the waste at sea, these bottles were thrown on the ground, then follow the flow of water, ending up in the ocean. Every year between 10 and 20 million tons of waste are dumped in the oceans, 80% of which are plastics.*


The second largest polluter in terms of plastic

According to a report published in the Journal of Science (in 2015), the Indonesian archipelago is the second largest polluter in terms of plastic, just after China. Located in the heart of the famous Coral Triangle, the Indonesian maritime territory is home to the highest level of biodiversity in the world. But for how much longer?

Today, increasing numbers of tourists leave Sorong by ferry to reach Waisai, gateway to Raja Ampat, a site famous for scuba diving. From there, visitors take small boats to reach the rental cottages bordering turquoise water on the island of Kri or Gam. But a closer look shows that these pretty beaches lined with sheds on stilts are also littered with objects that the locals don’t bother to pick up.


The scientific team appalled by the accumulation of so much waste in the ocean – © Eric Röttinger / Kahi Kai
Despite the status of Raja Ampat National Park, the situation underwater is equally disturbing: Petroleum products and marine organisms come together daily in a place that was, until recently, a true underwater paradise.

Indonesia faces a problem of massive pollution, and finally the government is recognizing it. At one of the recent global summits on the Ocean, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for maritime affairs announced a plan to reduce marine pollution by 70% in the next 8 years. But in many islands of the archipelago, garbage collection is still just an idea.


Levers to regulate production?

Who should be blamed for the situation — consumers, the Indonesian government, the oil industry? What can be done to reverse the trend? In a country where incomes can be quite low, sales of plastic products in individual doses are very successful. The entire population must be made aware of the problem. At the same time, the public authorities must play their role by providing an efficient garbage collection and recycling service.
Accumulation of all kinds of waste – © Eric Röttinger / Kahi Kai

The oil industry and its lobby

When the question of responsibility is considered on a global scale, some experts blame the oil industry and its lobby. This is the case of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) whose recent report states that plastic manufacturers were aware of the problems caused by their products as early as the 1970s. But a part of the plastic industry continues to deny the facts, fighting regulations and undermining proposed solutions. Even worse, they put the blame on consumers. As for manufacturers, their involvement is limited to the resin granules made from plastic waste and doesn’t take into account the end-of-life of plastic products.


For an international treaty

At the Tara Expeditions Foundation, through our actions carried out since 2003, we strive to highlight the scientific facts, the questions and sometimes even the doubts so necessary to challenge accepted ideas. Sharing this mindset means bringing concrete elements to discussions with citizens, entrepreneurs and policy makers.

Today we support the implementation of an international treaty that would reduce this plastic crisis. It seems to us essential to constrain and regulate the impact of plastic throughout the life cycle of products, from their production to the pollution of our oceans.

Noëlie Pansiot

* https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms15611

Scientific sampling across the Atlantic

The first leg of the Tara Pacific expedition — the Atlantic crossing — is a “can’t miss” opportunity for scientists from the Oceanographic Laboratory of Villefranche-sur-Mer (France) and the Weizmann Institute of Science (Israël). This first period of sailing is put to use collecting as much data as possible and completing the already colossal data basis on plankton established during the Tara Oceans expedition. These new samples will allow further analysis of living organisms and the incredible biodiversity of plankton.

But the presence of plastic at sea is also revealed. The fragments collected will be analyzed, including the bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that colonize microplastics.
Discover a series of sampling instruments:
- A peristaltic pump, designed to avoid damaging the organisms collected
- A “high speed” net to collect surface water without having to reduce the speed of the schooner
- A bottle to collect iron (nutrient essential for plankton) installed at the bow of the boat in order not to be contaminated by the aluminum hull.

These operations are complemented by various automated and continuous samplings such as collecting atmospheric particles, and survey work made by the mass spectrometer in the dry lab.


Credits Maeva Bardy – Foundation Tara Expéditions


“We already have an informal type of recycling in Tangier”

“Soyez les bienvenus”. For two days, the Taranautes have been discovering what welcome means in Tangier. Yesterday, it was the crew members’ turn to receive local environmental associations. AMED, the Moroccan association for a sustainable development, is one of them, and our partner in this stopover. Amed’s President Lofti Chraibi presents their field of action.  

What are AMED’S objectives?

Our association aims to educate citizens, young and old, by involving them in practical workshops. We believe that people learn through practice, by getting involved.

Our goal is to show the components of sustainable development to the public. As part of an annual plan of action, we develop seminars and workshops to raise awareness about environmental issues, about the changes in behavior we must adopt. Here in Morocco, we are still in a phase where we need to educate and explain the need to change behavior. People are learning about recycling and waste management in order to reduce waste. We also introduce the use of renewable energy, opening up new horizons.

Every year, we organize the Sustainable Development Days. Next year, on the occasion of the 7th, we will work on the theme of water.

Tara Mediterranean is endeavoring to study plastic pollution and promotes public awareness of this issue. What is the situation here in Tangier?

Plastic is a problem. We try to instill awareness, to get citizens to ask questions. What is our mode of consumption? What becomes of this bottle after use? Like all modern societies in the 21st century, Moroccan society consumes a lot of plastic. Moroccans love to drink soda, and most are packaged in plastic. But when it comes to awareness, it’s not just to educate citizens. We must also educate politicians and policy makers to accelerate the establishment of an industrial  platform for sorting plastics. And in Tangier, we’re not there yet! We see that there’s a real desire to implement strategy, but on the ground, there’s no visible impact.

What is interesting in Tangier, and what we’re doing at AMED, is to think and encourage reflection on the form or the concept of recycling to be implemented. Why? Because we already have an informal type of recycling here: Certain people make a living by collecting plastic to re-sell. Plastic bottles for example, are re-used by dairy men for the transportation of milk. We need to imagine a platform or a recycling solution that will integrate all these people. But this must be done while following certain standards and better conditions of hygiene. We need to think about mechanisms to implement which will integrate these workers. For the moment, we are still in a phase of advocacy with townships and institutions.


You are partners with Tara Expeditions for this stopover. What is the schedule for the coming week?

We just organized a tour of the boat with members of environmental groups active in Tangier. Young members of AMED also came to do a reportage on the work done by the Tara team. Our association will participate in Tara workshops on Wednesday November 5th, and on this occasion we will present our educational activities.

Today, thanks to Tara, I discovered a new dimension of plastic. When we address the issue of plastic pollution, we imagine bottles or trash visible to the naked eye. On board I realized there are also tiny plastic particles. This theme could be part of our association’s outreach program in the future.

This afternoon, we have planned a tour of the medina and the kasbah with the crew. We want to show them the reality of our city and its human dimension. They will be able to observe the lifestyle of the people of Tangier. In the heart of the medina there are no big supermarkets, but there are grocery stores, and I think we’ll see a lot of plastic on this visit.


Interviewed by Noëlie Pansiot

“Let’s eliminate single-use plastic!”

Saturday, the crew welcomed aboard for lunch Etienne Bourgois, President of Tara Expeditons, and Gabriel Gorsky, scientific director of Tara Mediterranean. It was an occasion to discuss the problem of plastic pollution, and imagine the future.  

An on-going discussion, difficult to transcribe in full. Here’s an excerpt:

Gabriel Gorsky: There have been so many wake-up calls that didn’t get anywhere. I’m a little pessimistic. Regardless of the urgency of certain situations, we must initiate appeals for actions that are achievable! 8% of oil is used to make plastics, the majority in packaging that sometimes ends up in nature. Tara has launched an appeal to reduce the use of these plastics. Let’s begin right away by eliminating single-use plastic!

Etienne Bourgois: Apparently this seems to be well on its way.

Gabriel Gorky: “This is where you need to focus! We have to proceed step by step. Then we need to decrease plastics in the 2nd and 3rd categories: plastic bottles, and other plastic products that are not essential. At each stage we must involve industry, to find means of production that are as cheap as oil and can create many jobs. Otherwise, our calls for action will have no effect.

Noëlie Pansiot: We also need to raise general awareness about the problem.

Gabriel Gorsky: Of course, and Tara does this very well! Tara uses the necessary communication tools and the media.  It’s time for scientists to emerge from their ivory towers where experts talk only to other experts. Because ultimately there’s no response, no understanding or follow-up.

Noëlie Pansiot: Why do you think people need disasters to react?

Gabriel Gorsky: It’s human nature. Communication, the educational activities carried out aboard Tara, this closeness to people is very important. We realize that many people are already convinced. I think this is where Tara and other NGOs that raise awareness have succeeded – because ultimately people will speak out – they are already speaking out.  It’s time to take action, and involve the voting process. We need to elect people who will fight for ecological causes. It will be a long struggle, but certainly doable. The problem is that a lot of damage has already been done, and we must not fool people. We won’t be able to improve the state of the Earth overnight.

Noëlie Pansiot: As for plastic pollution, we can already try to stop it.

Gabriel Gorsky: Yes, we can stop it, especially in the smaller basins, such as the Mediterranean where most floating plastic eventually ends up on the shores and can be collected. In such places, if inputs are reduced, we can do something. It seems more difficult in the large gyres where we can’t get rid of the plastic so easily, because it covers extremely large areas. But of course, we must first reduce the use of plastic, since in many cases it’s not essential.

Etienne Bourgois: What about the Mediterranean – is the situation better than 30 years ago? ”

Gabriel Gorsky: Cousteau was wrong! The Mediterranean is alive and relatively well. I would say that nature is doing well. We now have new species, biodiversity has actually increased, but for humans things aren’t going so well. For example, plastic disseminates opportunistic pathogens such as Vibrio, which could cause cholera if conditions are right. There are a lot of pathogenic species that roam everywhere around the Mediterranean. For example, the tiger mosquito is now in Marseille.


Interview by Noëlie Pansiot



▸ Plastic and Environment

▸ After 7 days of plastic sampling: Tara Mediterranean 2014

▸ Mermaid’s tears 

The Tara Mediterranean expedition: stopover in Marseille

From September 20-29, 2014 

 The schooner Tara is on expedition in the Mediterranean from May to November 2014. This mission includes both a scientific component at sea, on plastic pollution and an educational component ashore about the many environmental issues facing the Mediterranean Sea. 

From September 20-29 Tara will stopover at Marseilles, docking first on the Quai d’honneur at the Old Port and then on the J4 esplanade near the Villa Mediterranean.

Marseille Stopover 

On this occasion, the scheduled program includes: a press conference, an exhibition “Our Ocean Planet,”  an interactive environmental awareness exhibition “From the Mountains to the Sea” hosted by Surfrider, a conference, tours of the schooner for the public and school children,  and a workshop/meetings with local associations.

Tara will be from September 20-22 at the Quai d’honneur (in the Old Port in front of the City Hall) and from September 22-29 at the J4 esplanade near the Villa Mediterranean. This stopover is part of the program “September at Sea.”


-Tara arrives at the Quai d’honneur in the Old Port: Saturday, September 20 at noon.

-Public tours of the schooner with a crew member guide, and an animation on the dock for young adults conducted by the Surfrider Foundation: Saturday, September 20th from 14:30 to 18h; Sunday, Sept. 21 from 10am to noon and 14:30 to 18h; Wednesday, September 24 from 14:30 to 18h; Saturday 27th and Sunday, September 28 from 10am to noon and 14:30 to 18h (free, subject to availability, reservations:  first-come-first-serve).

-Exhibition: Our Ocean Planet: open to the public at the agnès b. boutique from September 9-29, Monday to Saturday from 10h to 19h (33 Cours Honoré d’Estienne d’Orves, 13001 Marseille).

The ocean is the cradle of life and covers three fourths of our blue planet. It is vital for the health of our ecosystems and for us, essential for the balance of climate and for the global economy. To ensure the transition towards a model of sustainable development, our societies must better understand and manage more effectively the treasures of marine biodiversity!  Exhibition panels will let you discover the marine world.

-Workshop meetings with local citizens on key environmental issues in the Mediterranean: Thursday, September 25.
-Conference for the general public ”Environmental Challenges in the Mediterranean”: Saturday, September 27 at 18h at the Villa Mediterranean. To participate, click here.

-Tara departs from the J4 esplanade: Monday, September 29 in the morning.

City of Marseille, September at Sea, Surfrider Foundation Europe, Villa Mediterranean



Beirut’s Warm Welcome

On Tuesday, August 5, Tara arrived in Beirut – the easternmost stopover of her Mediterranean route. Our entry into the marina of the Lebanese capital was accompanied with great fanfare, and the presence of local and international media.

After 2 days in the waters of Cyprus without the possibility of sampling, the scientific team took advantage of our arrival in Lebanese waters to carry out 2 long sampling stations. After a short night, on Tuesday we came into view of the first buildings of the Lebanese capital. Shortly before 6 pm, boats bearing the colors of the Lebanese flag began to join the schooner, turning into a real escort to the Beirut Marina.

Docked at the quay where Tara will stay all week, we were immediately submerged by Lebanese warmth. First, a garland of flowers was hung around the neck of each crew member, then “Welcome to Lebanon” echoed from all sides. A steady stream of journalists poured over the bridge, grabbing the attention of sailors and scientists.

Television, magazines, newspapers and news agencies – Lebanese (TV Lebanon) and international (Reuters) – the media were present in large numbers on deck. Adding to the merry hubbub that engulfed the bridge for over an hour were our local contacts: the group Solidere who organized our welcome; our scientific counterparts such as the Lebanese CNRS; and also local NGOs, for example, the Association Big Blue that has been fighting coastal pollution for 25 years.

Once the bridge emptied of guests, the crew recovered from this warm welcome at a cocktail party organized in our honor at the exhibition hall where Tara’s scientific adventures are on display. A welcome break before starting this week’s long program, including exchanges with local institutions and scientific structures, and of course, the visits of school children and the general public. Hundreds of people are expected on deck during the 7 days of our stopover – a week in Lebanon before starting the return journey westward to complete, by the end of the year, 7 months of sampling in the Mediterranean Sea.


Yann Chavance


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Invisible borders

If the location of the sampling stations are chosen according to scientific needs, they are also determined by the local legal restrictions: each country boasts, off their coasts, an Exclusive Economic Zone. Before undertaking water samples, Tara’s team first needs to be issued an authorization, which sometimes arrives at the last minute. 

Yann Chavance © Tara Expéditions

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Sazan : a Franco-Albanian Preservation Project

The island of Sazan can be seen from the quay where Tara is docked, at Vlora, Albania. Sazan is the center of a preservation project uniting French and Albanian environmental agencies. This collaboration was officially signed on the deck of the schooner during a 3-day stopover in Vlora.

During 10 years of expeditions on the high seas, Tara has been alternately a platform for scientific research, a place for seminars and policy discussions, and a vehicle for raising public awareness about the oceans. During our stopover in Vlora, Albania, for a few hours the schooner became a highly symbolic site for the official signing of an important contract, establishing a common conservation policy between the French and Albanian Coastal Protection Agencies. At the center of the agreement is Sazan, the largest island of Albania, facing the bay of Vlora.  It is essential to preserve this rich natural area in a country where political strife has long deterred ecological awareness.

In 2010, the coastline around the island was declared the  Karaburun/Sazan Marine Protected Area — Albania’s first and only MPA. This initiative prompted the French Coastal Protection Agency to begin a collaboration with their local counterparts on issues concerning the island. “We had already worked (until 2006) with the Albanian groups, including conservation policies on lagoons,” recalls Céline Damery, Policy Officer at the European and International Department for Coastal Protection, which manages the Albanian case. “We returned here in 2011, taking advantage of  the dynamic that came with the creation of the MPA to provide our institutional and technical assistance, and support them in the implementation of a policy for coastal management.”

In 2012 and 2013, the French Coastal Protection Agency launched its PIM initiative (“Petites Iles Méditerranéennes) which included studies of the biodiversity of Sazan. Surveys quickly revealed the natural wealth of the island, including some 300 species of flora, 40 bird species and 10 new insect species unknown until now in Albania This rich inventory, followed by an ecological evaluation, and an assessment of land-based pollution, resulted in a management plan for the island. Until now, Sazan has been only partially affected by the newly established MPA. “The waters surrounding the island are part of the MPA, but the land area is owned by the Defense Ministry, and presently has no protection status,” explains Céline Damery. “We want to work on this project, because it can be an exemplary site for Albania, with integrated management of land and sea.”

Since the beginning of this year, French and Albanian agencies have been working to establish a Protected Land Area. This collaboration became official with the signature of the convention aboard Tara, in the presence of cameras and local politicians. “This is a new stage in cooperation with the Albanian authorities in terms of exchange of know-how and sharing experience on issues of coastal management,” exclaimed the French project manager. The whole Tara team was proud to host this signature. It was also an opportunity to highlight this kind of local initiative so that our scientific mission in the Mediterranean becomes a relay for the positive actions we encounter along our route.


Yann Chavance


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Escale sarde

Huit jours après notre départ d’Antibes, Tara est arrivé ce samedi 5 juillet en vue de la petite ville de Cala Gonone, en Sardaigne. Une escale de quelques jours durant lesquels le plancton et l’expédition Tara Oceans (2009-2013) seront à l’honneur.

Malgré les nombreux changements de programme pour adapter notre route et surtout nos prélèvements de plastique aux conditions météorologiques, nous sommes arrivés à l’heure face à la petite ville sarde. Un hameau de moins de deux mille âmes, perché sur une côte sauvage criblée de grottes aux eaux turquoises. Si tous à bord sont impatients de mettre un pied à terre ou la tête sous l’eau, ce n’est pas une escale farniente qui nous attend.

Tout juste arrivés, une partie de l’équipage part en ville pour une conférence de presse : ils reviendront accompagnés d’une quinzaine de journalistes venus visiter la goélette. A peine repartis, le va-et-vient du zodiac reprend de plus belle, déversant sur le pont de nouveaux arrivants encombrés de valises, quand d’autres, arrivés au terme de leur voyage, font les leurs. Tout cela au cœur d’un planning chargé, comme toujours.

Dimanche verra ainsi se succéder une conférence donnée en italien sur le plancton et les expéditions de Tara, une réunion de travail sur les recherches scientifiques menées dans la région – qui réfléchit à la création d’une station biologique et d’une aire marine protégée – ou encore une réception à l’aquarium de Cala Gonone, partenaire de cette expédition en Méditerranée.

En marge de ce programme, cette escale en Sardaigne sera surtout le théâtre d’un important séminaire pour Oceanomics, le projet titanesque visant à exploiter les données et prélèvements effectués lors des expéditions Tara Oceans et Tara Oceans Polar Circle. Durant cinq jours, les chercheurs impliqués dans ce projet à travers le monde se retrouvent ainsi à Cala Gonone pour échanger sur leurs premiers résultats.

Lundi et mardi, les scientifiques d’Oceanomics concluront ce séminaire par deux jours d’échantillonnage au large de la Sardaigne, l’occasion de former certains aux protocoles de prélèvements et de mieux comprendre d’où viennent les données qu’ils analysent depuis maintenant plus d’un an. De quoi conclure en mer cette escale ensoleillée avant notre départ mercredi pour l’Albanie, après un bref passage par la petite île d’Ustica.


Yann Chavance


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Entre la Corse et la Sardaigne

Depuis quelques jours, le programme de cette étape Antibes-Cala Gonone est une question d’adaptabilité, notre parcours se décidant au jour le jour, changeant parfois même d’heure en heure, en raison de conditions météorologiques compliquées.

Samedi 28 juin, soit deux jours après notre départ d’Antibes, le planning de prélèvement prévu par Gaby Gorsky, le directeur scientifique de l’expédition, avait jusqu’ici été suivi sans accroc. Nous avions comme prévu passé  la nuit au mouillage à l’île d’Elbe, quand les dernières données météorologiques nous firent changer nos plans : un fort vent d’Ouest se profilait autour de la Corse, alors que nous devions justement effectuer de nombreux prélèvements en longeant la côte Ouest de l’île de beauté. Dimanche nous avons donc rebroussé chemin, direction Bastia, côte Est, pour passer la nuit au mouillage. La précaution ne fut pas inutile : même protégé du vent par les montagnes corses, Tara fut ballotté toute la nuit par des vents montant jusqu’à 45 nœuds, sous un ciel déchiré par une multitude d’éclairs.

Le lendemain matin, alors que nous nous préparions à lever l’ancre, un dernier BMS (Bulletin Météorologique Spécial) changea une nouvelle fois nos plans. Un fort coup de vent allait souffler toute la journée dans notre zone, brassant la surface et empêchant ainsi nos prélèvements. La décision fut donc rapidement prise : nous resterons sur place une journée de plus, mettant à profit ces quelques heures sans science à bord. « Cela permet de récupérer un peu de la fatigue des derniers jours et de s’occuper un peu plus du bateau » explique Samuel Audrain, le capitaine. L’occasion aussi pour les marins d’aller à terre pour acheter du petit matériel pour entretenir le désalinisateur, le frigo ou encore le système électrique du bateau.

Du coté scientifique, cette journée au mouillage est aussi une aubaine. « On fait le bilan de ces derniers jours et aussi un peu de maintenance sur les appareils, détaille Stéphanie Petit, la responsable scientifique de l’étape. Pour ma part, j’ai mis à jour toutes les fiches de prélèvements et réglé un problème avec l’azote liquide. C’est donc loin d’être une journée perdue ! ». Cet arrêt forcé fut également l’occasion de faire le point par mail avec le directeur scientifique de l’expédition pour décider de la suite du programme. Après avoir évoqué la possibilité de retourner vers l’île d’Elbe, décision fut prise d’échantillonner un peu plus au large. Mais le soir même, après avoir levé l’ancre et s’être éloignés de la côte, le premier coup de filet ne remonta presque rien : peu de plancton, presque pas de plastique.

Avec la houle et une mer brassée par 24 heures de vent, la surface semblait désertée. « Même quand on ne récolte rien, c’est intéressant, relativise Stéphanie. Cela nous permet de mieux comprendre les facteurs qui influencent la répartition du plastique ». Il aura fallu attendre encore plusieurs heures et quelques miles de route vers le large pour que les filets, se succédant jusque tard dans la nuit, remontent à nouveau chargés en particules plastiques. Mais ce mardi, les bulletins météo annoncent à nouveau des perturbations à venir sur notre route. Difficile donc encore aujourd’hui de savoir où nous échantillonnerons dans les jours qui viennent. A l’heure actuelle, une seule chose est sûre : nous serons samedi prochain à Cala Gonone, en Sardaigne. Sans trop savoir quelle route nous prendrons pour l’atteindre.

Yann Chavance


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Interview with Etienne Bourgois, President of Tara Expeditions

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!

Pelagos : an international marine sanctuary dedicated to the protection of cetaceans

Pelagos : an international marine sanctuary dedicated to the protection of cetaceans

Interview with Alain Barcelo, head of the scientific department of the National Park of Port-Cros, responsible for the French section of Pelagos.

Each time a marine mammal appears near the schooner, the Taranautes rush out on deck to observe and fully experience a unique moment. The crew made the acquaintance of a Risso’s dolphin between Oran and the Balearic Islands, and more recently, a group of bottlenose dolphins in the Bay of Port-Cros.

This year the Tara Mediterranean expedition will traverse the Pelagos Sanctuary several times. An international marine space dedicated to the protection of cetaceans, the area comprises 87,500 km² inhabited by 8 species of marine mammals. Alain Barcelo, head of the scientific service of the National Park of Port-Cros, in charge of public relations for the Sanctuary, describes the importance of the Pelagos Agreement.

Where is the Sanctuary located?

Pelagos forms a large triangle extending from Sardinia northwards to Hyères, and Italy. It includes all the waters surrounding Corsica. It’s an immense Marine Protected Area dedicated to marine mammals in the Mediterranean.

Taking full effect in 2002, the Pelagos Agreement was signed by France, Monaco and Italy in November 1999. It aims to protect cetaceans and make their presence compatible with all the activities taking place in this space. This is a huge Sanctuary, unique in its kind, and includes regions of the high seas.

Eight species of cetaceans are regularly present in the Sanctuary: the fin whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, pilot whale, common dolphin and beaked whale. Other species occasionally cross this area – humpback whales, for example. The numbers vary depending on the season: let’s say tens of thousands of striped dolphins, and a few hundred fin whales.
What are the main threats to these animals?

These animals are threatened by human activities, which are numerous in the Sanctuary. Maritime traffic can lead to collisions between ships and large mammals such as the fin whale or the sperm whale. Our goal is to develop methods to protect marine mammals and make their presence compatible with these activities. There are lots of pleasure boats and nautical activities in the area – sources of disturbance for the animals.
Among the threats to these species, the Sanctuary’s website also lists chemical pollution. What about plastic pollution ?

Ongoing studies show that pollutants attach themselves to the plastic and are ingested by organisms throughout the food chain. A wide range of common chemicals are found in very high levels of concentration at the top of the food chain in marine mammals. We know that comparing a species of toothed whale present in both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, the Mediterranean whale concentrates the most chemicals in its tissues. Macro-plastics are troublesome in themselves, but even worse, they degrade and become the micro-plastics that we find throughout the food chain.

What are the measures implemented by Pelagos?

We have tools for communication and raising public awareness. By going to the Pelagos website in two or three clicks, visitors have access to the “Become Ambassadors” page. Simply read the code of conduct, agree to respect it, and make it known to boaters. The public can thus share the goals of the Sanctuary and make every effort to protect the species encountered: be alert for signs of disturbance, respect the zones and distances for approaching the cetaceans, etc.

Faced with problems of collisions, the Association“Souffleurs d’écume” partnered with a private company to design a computer program for commercial navigators: the REPCET system. This device allows boats to identify in real time the position of marine mammals, and alert other vessels equipped with the program.

Finally, for 2 years Pelagos has been developing partnerships with coastal towns and cities. 30 municipalities have signed a charter engaging them to contribute to the conservation of marine mammals. These municipalities relay the message of conservation to the general public.

Other measures are aimed at operators of whale-watching boats (for which we are developing a certification), but also maritime traffic, protection activities, and professional fishing. We have lots of ideas for encouraging the presence of these majestic animals that live so close to our shores. It is essential to talk with seafarers, because all of them share our goals.

Interview by Noëlie Pansiot

Watch the video presentation of the Pelagos Sanctuary


No Tobacco Day: 400 butts picked up on the beach by Taranautes

No Tobacco Day: 400 butts picked up on the beach by Taranautes

Saturday, May 31, the crew answered the call of the Surfrider Foundation Europe. Equipped with garbage bags and gloves, the Taranautes walked the beaches of Charmettes and Le Cros in Six-Fours (Var) collecting trash.  This “Ocean Initiative,” the second this month, allowed them to collect 200 liters (20 kg.) of rubbish. Plastic was clearly present in all its forms, but cigarette butts  especially caught the crew’s attention. Volunteers collected the cigarette butts one by one for two hours, participating in their own way in the World No Tobacco Day.

Responsible for education at Surfrider Mediterranean, Benjamin Van Hoorebeke said with a big smile,  “The tobacco industry had a good idea in making the filters yellow: they show up really well in the sand!” It’s true, the color draws attention. When you bend down to pick up a butt, you quickly realize it’s not alone. Sometimes 3 or 4 others are lying near the first. Brigitte Martin, a volunteer for Surfrider for almost 3 years, is particularly disturbed to find the butts lying right next to a trash bin on the beach. “Tossing a cigarette butt is an automatic gesture. You even see it done in the movies.”

Sunbathers lay down their towels between the crushed and abandoned butts left on the beach by careless smokers. These small pieces of cellulose acetate – plastic in fiber form – are excellent travellers. A cigarette butt thrown on the ground in the city will float in water washing the sidewalks, flow into the road, and finally end up on a beach, as they do here, arriving via a rain water spillway. “The butt will then break up into micro-plastics.” Benjamin Van Hoorebeke adds, “The main impact from butts is the toxic substances they contain: nicotine, cyanide, mercury. A single butt discarded in the environment can by itself pollute between 300 and 400 liters of water. On the ledge there, I walked 10 meters and I found 56 butts !” Organizer of this event, Benjamin Van Hoorebeke regrets that smokers who throw cigarettes on the ground often do not even realize they’re polluting.

Each year, 4,300 billion cigarette butts are discarded in the streets – 137,000 per second! – enough for a never-ending trash collection. Surfrider’s campaign to raise awareness is essential. According to Benjamin Van Hoorebeke, “Awareness is the first step toward accountability.” Partner of Tara Mediterranean, Surfrider will be present at the schooner’s stopover in Nice in 10 days. A great opportunity to become consciousness-raisers, and educate the public about the issues of pollution.

Noëlie Pansiot

Tara is in its initial running-in period

“We are at the stage of setting up protocols”
Interview with Samuel Audrain, captain of Tara

Since last week, there’s been excitement on board: the captain’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing, the crew expects deliveries, and many groups take turns visiting the boat during this stopover in Toulon. In chief mechanic Martin Hertau’s workshop, adjustments are being made on the sternposts. Paul Dufay, a talented electronics trainee is optimizing the electric panel wiring. There are final purchases to be made and parts to be found for minor repairs. The deck officer, François Aurat, has the shopping list: hydraulic bladder, plumbing for the dry lab, ampere-meter clamp, cyalume stick. All crew members are busy preparing the boat, leaving nothing to chance for the expedition. Samuel Audrain is aboard Tara again, captain for this leg.

Tara has been docked at Toulon’s “Quai d’honneur” for the last week.  The crew welcomed nearly 1,000 visitors aboard in just three days. Outside of visiting hours, what is happening onboard?

I recently embarked and this stopover lets us speed up preparations of the boat. We are still in reach of our French suppliers, making it easy to order parts. We have to anticipate the up-coming seven-month expedition (with stopovers in many foreign countries).

We carried out a safety check and tested each of the life jackets for buoyancy. We’re making sure we have all the necessary equipment on board before departure. As for the machines and motors, there’s always something to do on a daily basis.

We’ll be in the Mediterranean and it will be hot, so we’re looking for fans. All these things take time. Yesterday, technicians came aboard to check the air-conditioning in the dining room. Our stopover in Nice will be as long as here in Toulon and will let us finish installations. We have to advance every day and not wait until the last moment. And all of this while welcoming visitors — the general public and schools groups. But I really enjoy starting the expedition and sharing our experience with the public during stopovers.

Who are the embarking scientists?

For the last couple of days, Hervé Le Goff, CNRS engineer, has been responsible for setting up the dry lab for the Mediterranean mission. Jean-Louis Jamet, professor at the University of Toulon, has just boarded and is scientific coordinator for this leg. He is in contact with Gaby Gorsky, scientific director of the TaraMedPlastic project and designer of our entire scientific program. We are all discussing the implementation of protocols for data collection and sampling.

In short, many things are being finalized and this stopover is rather intense. We are in a phase of setting up protocols, and want to be efficient from the very start, i.e., from the 2-9 of June.


Noëlie Pansiot

Tara Mediterranean expedition

From April to November 2014

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 for environmental challenges in the Mediterranean Sea.

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 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.

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.

Expedition MED, Mohammed VI Foundation for the Environment, Acquario di Cala Gonone.


Discover the map of the expedition

Click here to see the highlights and planning of the stopovers

Artists-in-residence during the Tara Mediterranean expedition

Tara Expeditions organizes scientific, artistic and educational missions with the schooner Tara.  Similar to expeditions in the 19th century, scientists and artists meet aboard Tara and share in a unique human experience.

In 2013, on the 10th anniversary of Tara Expeditions, the exhibition Tara’s 10 years, Visions of 20 Artists  was held at the agnès b. headquarters, showing work done by artists-in-residence aboard. A new exhibition will be organized at the Tara Base in 2015, when the current Tara Mediterranean expedition is over.

agnès b., owner /sponsor of Tara but also clothing designer, collector and gallery owner for 30 years, supports artists through her Galerie du Jour in Paris, and her personal art collection. It is natural for agnès b. and Etienne Bourgois to regularly invite artists aboard Tara. Their presence is a way of bringing environmental awareness to a much wider audience. To this effect, the selection committee met this year to choose from the many submitted projects for 2-3 week onboard residencies during the Tara Mediterranean expedition.

10 artists from 4 different countries were selected to give their impressions on the expedition:
- Yoann Lelong (video): Embiez to Monaco
- Spencer Lowell (photo and video): Antibes to Cala Gonone
- Carly Steinbrunn (photo): Cala Gonone to Athens
- Lorraine Féline (video): Cala Gonone to Athens
- Emmanuel Régent (drawing and installations): Athens to Tel Aviv
- Christian Revest (painting and engraver): Haifa to Bizerte
- Lola Reboud (photo/video): Bizerte to Marseille
- Katia Kameli (video): Algiers to St Tropez
- Sylvain Couzinet-Jacques (3D photo): St Tropez to Calvi
- Malik Nejmi (photo/movie):  Genoa to Tangier

In early 2015, following the Tara Mediterranean expedition, a group exhibition of these artists will be held at the Tara Base, the new center for Tara Expeditions. The 400m2 space on the Port de l’Arsenal à la Bastille (11 Boulevard Bourdon, 4th arrondissement, Paris) will  present free screenings, tours and lectures starting June 2, 2014.
A first exhibition by students from the School of Decorative Arts will be presented there until June 26: The Secret World of Plankton.

Environmental issues in the Mediterranean

Urban and industrial development raise many challenges today in the Mediterranean region, including management of waste and pollution, more than 90% of which originates on land. Besides the challenge of reducing pollution, essential elements in ongoing efforts for the ecological health of the Mediterranean are the sustainable management of maritime transport, oil exploration, industrial fishing and tourism.

We must also  support the creation and management of protected marine areas in order to restore the most affected ecosystems, maintain fish stocks, and preserve certain endangered ecosystems. Beyond just observing the situation and sounding the alarm, we are working to promote innovation and solutions for the future of plastics. We want to make concrete progress in the ongoing political processes – on a regional, national and international level.



> Reducing pollution at the source: education, recycling, promotion of a circular economy.

> Integrated watershed management: cleaning of canals and rivers.

> Green packaging: producer responsibility.

> Bioplastics: derived from renewable biomass sources, biodegradable, oxo-fragmentables. What real impact will they have, and which ones are a real solution ?

> Reduction of chemical pollution at the source: international regulations.

> Research and innovation: plastic and micro-organisms. Which organisms can break down what types of plastic?

> Prohibition of single-use plastic bags: France could become an example in this area. Europe has already adopted (in May 2014) a text setting goals for member countries to reduce the number of single-use plastic bags. Tara considers this text as a step forward, but it is insufficient.



> WASTE AND PLASTIC DEBRIS: Bottles, bottle caps, scraps. About 6 and a half million tons of waste are dumped annually in the oceans and seas of the world. 80% is plastic, or 206 pounds per second.

> MICROPLASTICS (< 5mm): granules, beads, microbeads, textile fibers – complex, invisible pollution difficult to treat. While macro-waste directly impacts fish and seabirds, microplastics have an impact on marine microorganisms and therefore the entire food chain.



> 450 million people live in coastal areas of the Mediterranean, in 22 countries.

> In just 30 years, from 1970 to 2000, the overall population of the Mediterranean countries grew from 285 to 427 million people, with two collateral phenomena – coastal development and urbanization.

> The Mediterranean Sea is home to nearly 8% of marine biodiversity, although it represents only 0.8% of the ocean’s surface.

>  We have now identified 925 invasive species in the Mediterranean. 56% of these are here to stay, according to a study by the Blue Plan (UNEP).

> The Mediterranean concentrates 30% of global maritime traffic, via the Suez Canal.

> There are about 60 offshore oil rigs for exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean.

> An estimated 90% of pollution in the Mediterranean comes from land.

> The Mediterranean region is the world’s largest tourist region, attracting about 30% of international tourism.

Tara Expeditions and Surfrider Foundation united against plastic waste

Twenty volunteers rolled up their sleeves on Saturday, May 17th to clean up the beaches of Port Cros. For this “Ocean Initiative” event, volunteers combed the Fausse Monnaie  and Port Man beaches looking for undesirable waste. A small team of divers also joined in the fun in Port Man bay.

The Tara Expeditions team joined members of the European Surfrider Foundation to promote awareness about plastic pollution. Yesterday’s “Ocean Initiative” in Port-Cros was initiated by the Surfrider Foundation. This type of event provides a compelling educational tool: volunteers assess the pollution themselves. A large quantity of detritus drifts onto the beaches of Port-Cros, even though it is a protected site, regularly cleaned by National Park officials.

After the collection was finished, participants gathered in Port-Cros harbor to do an inventory by sorting. Plastic was unfortunately rated among the most abundant waste: one hour of collection was enough to fill a 100 liter-bag with plastic garbage of all kinds, including 200 sticks from cotton swabs.

Marion Lourenço, a member of the foundation accompanying the group explained, “In fact, people throw them in the toilet — a completely inappropriate gesture!” But the presence of these sticks is nothing exceptional, since “80 % of the waste we find on our beaches comes from land.” Waste travels downstream, carried along by rivers that end in the ocean. Taranautes have observed the same phenomenon of pollution on every expedition: In January 2011, an onboard study revealed the presence of plastics even in Antarctic waters.

During this year’s Tara Mediterranean, scientists aboard the schooner will try to understand the impacts of plastic on the Mediterranean ecosystem. And more precisely, the impact of micro-plastics — very fine particles in colossal amounts that travel by ocean currents. Researchers will try to collect, quantify and identify these micro-fragments.

Faced with this problem, Marion from the Surfrider Foundation reminds us that the best waste is one that is not produced. This is the 4R rule: refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle !



Noëlie Pansiot

Interview : Romain Troublé about Tara Mediterranean expedition

Romain Troublé: “The Tara Mediterranean expedition will be rich in scientific research, and rich in encounters with the public and local associations.”

On the occasion of the schooner’s first stopover – in Port-Cros (France) – Romain Troublé, Secretary General of Tara Expeditions, discusses the objectives of our current mission: a 16,000 km circumnavigation of the Mediterranean Sea.

For her tenth expedition, Tara is sailing in the Mediterranean, a place dear to the French. What is the goal of this expedition?

The challenge is to continue the research on plastic that we started in 2011, during the Tara Oceans expedition. The current expedition will be devoted to issues of plastics pollution in the Mediterranean. For the Tara team, the coming months will also be an opportunity to educate the public – to explain where the plastic comes from, and how it winds up in the sea.

Why address this issue ?

For quite some time, scientists involved in our expeditions have observed the presence of plastics in oceans all over the world. Plastic is everywhere! The schooner traversed the famous Pacific gyre so often in the news: the so-called “plastic continent.” We thought it would be interesting to devote an expedition to this important subject. We want to contribute to scientific research efforts – in the western basin, as well as in the little-studied eastern basin.

The problem of plastic pollution affects everyone. All countries bordering the Mediterranean are concerned, and all have an impact. Plastic found along the coasts of France is not necessarily French plastic. The Mediterranean Sea is a real mix of currents: plastics originating in Morocco arrive on the French coast, French plastics are found in Italy, and so on.

Research conducted by scientists aboard Tara will focus on the interaction of plastic with our food chain, and especially with the first link in that chain – plankton. For 4 years, scientists working with Tara have been studying plankton. We will continue to focus on plankton and its interaction with plastic.

In what ways is this expedition innovative ?

The problem of plastic affects everyone on a daily basis. Plastic is what we throw in the trash bin every day – waste products of what we consume. It represents our relationship to consumer society.

This year, Tara will be close to home. The boat will be sailing around our very own Mediterranean Sea where many of us swam when we were kids.

Because the Mediterranean is a closed sea, it provides an especially important example. In the coming years, if we can manage human impact on the Mediterranean, we will be able to better manage the global ocean. The Mediterranean is under strong anthropogenic pressures: increasing population, maritime traffic, tourism, fishing…

This expedition will allow us to draw attention to serious issues, such as the importance of sanitation systems, and educating people about sorting and recycling waste.

It’s often said that the Mediterranean Sea is dying; yet some scientists say it’s never been so productive, that many large predators and cetaceans are still present. The Tara Mediterranean expedition is our way of contributing knowledge towards a better understanding of the current state of this sea.

Tara is not only about science, but also about education, and increasing public awareness.

People are showing a real interest in the subject. They wish to learn more about the consequences of pollution: Does plastic enter the food chain, and end up on our plates? Do the molecules from plastics have an impact on the reproduction of marine organisms? Are there other impacts?

Tara’s many stopovers will provide an opportunity to invite people aboard to discuss this question: Why do plastic bags that are scattered inadvertently in nature, wind up their journey at sea?

We want to show that action is possible. Yes, the sea is dirty, but we must stop adding plastic to the mess. This is an achievable goal and it ‘s not utopic.  We speak of feasible actions: educate people, develop appropriate equipment, support research to invent truly biodegradable plastics (not bio-based or bio-fragmentable), but plastics that can be digested by plankton, bacteria or enzymes. Certain companies are beginning to address these issues and have good ideas. They should be encouraged — to offset the influence of petrochemical companies and their lobbies.

The last word

This expedition will be very dense, taking into account the pace of scientific research at sea, but also the many stopovers. Tara is now known and recognized by the public. People are eager to come aboard and explore the boat at ports-of-call. We believe this is a great project, rich in scientific research, rich in encounters with the public, associations, and volunteers who offer their time and energy to manage marine areas – people who are committed to sharing their passion for a cause: the Mediterranean and the sea in general.

Interview by Noëlie Pansiot

Stopover in Port-Cros

Port Cros – one of 4 islands off the coast of Hyères – was the first Marine Protected Area to be established in France (in 1963). Tara will dock there from May 5 to 19 to collaborate on a study of the island’s coralline with biologist/diver Laurent Ballesta and his Andromède team.

A very particular environment exists here at a depth between 50 and 90 meters, where there’s not much light. Calcareous algae form the base. When the algae dies, they leave behind calcarous skeletons. Over the years, limestone accumulates, serving as a support or hiding place for coral, fish, sea urchins, etc. More than 1,700 different species have been observed here. This very rich environment is vital for biodiversity in the Mediterranean, but has been studied very little because access is so difficult.

Specific diving equipment is necessary to go down to these depths. The Andromeda team is experienced in diving with air recyclers, and perfectly familiar with techniques of underwater inventorying. The team has been commissioned to conduct a study that will help the Park Manager better protect the environment.

Tara will serve as a logistics platform, moored very close to the study sites. This stopover will also prepare us for the next Tara coral expedition, scheduled for 2015.


Noëlie Pansiot, correspondent aboard.


Articles you might like:

-More information on Marine Protected Areas via our partner, MedPan

-Discover this region’s beautiful panoramas in our photo library

-Learn more about Tara’s future projects with the ANDROMEDA divers



This famous Strait is a true knot in the center of four cardinal points: Europe to the north, Africa to the south, the Atlantic to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the east. Tara entered the Mediterranean on April 25 – our new field of investigation for the next 7 months.

Gibraltar is also a city – since 1704, a British enclave in Spain, now a free zone, a “pied à terre” in the Mediterranean for the English, and a place for monitoring maritime traffic – a rock evolved into a real naval base.
Arriving from the Atlantic, you first see Tarifa, a port well-known to windsurfing and kite-surfing fans. Given the number of windy days in the year, this city is an ideal place for wind-sport aficionados. Tarifa is nestled at the water’s edge, below hills topped with hundreds of wind turbines. Winds blow alternately from west to east or east to west, depending on the season.

40 km long and 8 km wide, the Strait of Gibraltar is a narrow stretch between Spain and Morocco, through which a huge part of global maritime transport – goods and raw materials – passes. Its particular location makes this a site for all kinds of trafficking, including drugs and refugees: Gibraltar represents the ultimate test, the final stop in the odyssey of Africans who have paid their rite of passage with money saved by their families for years. Their goal is to reach Europe, an eldorado crystallizing dreams of success and better lives, but the outcome of their voyage is often tragic.
This strait is a naturally-formed opening into the Mediterranean. Today Tara is passing through, amidst bustling activity, to start her next mission.

A salute to the rock guarding the entrance, Tara dons her complete wardrobe – mainsail, foresail, yankee and staysail– and takes advantage of Gibraltar’s venturi effect, gliding into  warmer, saltier waters.

This is a reunion for Tara. In 2004 and 2009, the schooner already sailed this sea, taking samples of plankton during the Tara Oceans expedition.

Martin Hertau

Encounter with a basking shark

Encounter with a basking shark

Wednesday, April 23. Late afternoon. Tara is sailing south along the Portuguese coast. The sea is beautiful and a gentle swell rocks the boat.

We’re enjoying the late afternoon sun when Christophe Tissot sees a shape in the water. At first he thinks it’s a pilot whale, with a rounded head. Quickly, the crew on the bridge sees two fins on the surface of water. A shark? Two sharks together?

Martin Hertau, our captain, goes into manual control mode, and Tara gently heads towards the fins so we can see this strange aquatic ballet up close.

It’s actually a single shark, and a very special one indeed: a pretty basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) measuring around 3 meters. A rare encounter. We spend time observing.

In Britanny, this shark is known to live near the Glénan Islands during a certain period of the year. In fact, just a few days before our departure, we had heard about the presence of one of them near the island of Groix.

The basking shark is a harmless giant that feeds on plankton. It can reach several meters, and weigh several tons !

We observe the shark swimming just below the surface with its mouth wide open. This fish is a true plankton net, and the collector is its stomach!

This specimen is beautiful with a pointed nose, slender body, imposing size, and slow movement. For a few minutes it stayed by our side, just a few meters from Tara.

For many of us, this sighting is a first. During these few minutes, our years of work on plankton (the Tara Oceans and Tara Oceans Polar Circle expeditions) take on all their meaning. Animals are directly dependent on plankton, the basking shark among them. It is important to understand the basis of the marine ecosystem to better understand the lives of species dependent on plankton.

Mathieu Oriot, deck officer aboard Tara

Upcoming departure for Tara-Mediterranean

Departure for Tara-Mediterranean expedition

Saturday, April 19 at 11 AM, the schooner Tara left Lorient, her home port, for a seven-month expedition in the Mediterranean. The crew will conduct studies about plastic, and raise awareness about the many environmental issues related to the Mediterranean.

450 million people live along the Mediterranean coasts in 22 bordering countries. Due to its geography and climate, the Mediterranean Sea hosts nearly10% of global marine biodiversity, although representing only 0.8%  of the ocean’s surface. Today’s cities are saturated and almost a quarter 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.

The Tara Mediterranean mission includes several components, including:

1. A scientific study concerning plastic found in the sea will be carried out, coordinated by the Laboratory of Oceanography of Villefranche-sur-Mer (Pierre et Marie Curie University and CNRS) in France and the University of Michigan in the United States, in collaboration with the University of South Brittany and other universities in France.

2. An educational component to promote the efforts of local and regional associations on the many environmental issues concerning this almost-closed sea:
- Promotion of Marine Protected Areas in collaboration with the MedPAN network of Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean
- Promotion of solutions for waste reduction
- Sharing of the first analyses of data obtained in the Mediterranean during the Tara Oceans Expedition (2009-2012)

Duration: 7 months = 115 days at sea,  and 115 days in ports of call
Number of stops: 22
Number of countries visited: 11
Distance to be covered: 16,000 km
The team on board consists of 5 sailors, 2 scientists, 1 journalist and 1 artist

agnès b., Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, Veolia Environnement Foundation, IDEC, Carbios, UNESCO-IOC, MedPAN, Surfrider Foundation, Lorient Agglomeration, Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development of Energy, IUCN, CNRS, AFP, RFI, France 24, MCD.

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.

Expedition MED, Mohammed VI Foundation for the Environment, Acquario di Cala Gonone.

Discover the map of the expedition

Click here to see the highlights and planning of the stopovers

Science during the Tara Mediterranean expedition

Tara Mediterranean expedition
From April to November 2014


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.

More details coming soon


Discover the map of the expedition

Click here to see the highlights and planning of the stopovers

agnès b., Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, Veolia Environnement Foundation, IDEC, Carbios, UNESCO-IOC, MedPAN, Surfrider Foundation, Lorient Agglomeration, Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development of Energy, IUCN, CNRS, AFP, RFI, France 24, MCD.

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.

Expedition MED, Mohammed VI Foundation for the Environment, Acquario di Cala Gonone.

Plastic Continent Ahoy!

On Tuesday October 4, as we reach latitude 31º N, for the first time we encounter some floating plastic rubbish. We’ve arrived at the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”. It’s a first “triumph” because the studies on plastic distribution in the north Pacific by the Charles Moore Algalita Foundation (1999-2008) showed unpredictable locations.

A modeling of ocean convergent points carried out by Dr. Maximenko from Hawaii University in 2008 traced marine currents with small drifting buoys. More recently Maximenko demonstrated 5 worldwide convergence zones, and amongst them the Pacific “plastic continent”.

In practical terms, and partially due to wind variability, it is impossible to even pinpoint the plastic distribution at the interior of a gyre. We can’t even predict where the most rubbish will be found at a given time. We resigned ourselves to this fact and began this leg in the manner of “hit or miss”, and voila! We’re in the middle of the rubbish, less than a week after leaving Honolulu.

We’ve deployed the Manta trawl net, specifically designed for surface plastic debris sampling. As the net is brought on board, all eyes are riveted on the contents: a multitude of colored plastic fragments surrounding a large green stopper, covered with an algal ecosystem. Two small-attached crabs appear to be defending their habitat with their claws. This plastic has been colonized like a coral reef.

Judging from what we see below the macro-rubbish floating line, this plastic has been there for a long time and is part of the marine environment. We’ll have to determine the exact consequences of plastic on ocean life and study the microbial interactions with the plastic. Maybe we’ll discover bacteria capable of digesting and dissociating certain polymers? Many questions remain unanswered and a multitude of analyses await these samples, which Tara will bring to San Diego. One thing is certain: there’s lots of plastic!

Andres Peyrot 

Approaching the « plastic continent »

Saturday, October 1st, 2011, we complete the “ALOHA” station when the multinet brings in the last samples. Then in the middle of the night, we take off again. Winds from the east blow are blowing in the direction opposite to where we want to go.

Since the the boat cannot head into the wind, Hervé (Tara’s captain) is obliged to change course and sail north. Our goal is to reach a latitude far enough north (about 35°N) where we’ll leave behind the trade winds and catch winds from the west that will carry us to California. This means a modification in our program of sampling stations. What’s more, the boat must be in the port of San Diego imperatively on October 26th. The number of days planned for sampling depends on the number of extra days spent sailing. Accustomed to the challenges of this kind of scientific expedition, the Tara team begins a race against time.

The scientists prolong their workdays in order to maintain sampling protocol, and the crew does everything possible to optimize navigation time. Isabelle Taupier Letage, head scientist, must make decisions about planning the stations and their locations. After consulting the rest of the team, she decides to start a second long station once we pass above latitude 30°N, because from that point on, we’ll officially be at the edge of the “plastic continent”*.

Before that, we’ll have 2 days of pure navigation. The wind picks up, motors are shut off, and we reach a speed of 9 knots in silence. François (deck officer), throws in some fishing lines. A few hours later he brings to the kitchen fresh sea-bream and mahi mahi. Celine (the cook) satisfies our nostalgia for Hawaii by preparing the famous island dish, spicey mahi mahi poke. For now, we try to forget the idea that plastic is polluting the marine food chain and might be hiding in the flesh of the fish we’re eating. The results of our research will be known soon enough.

Andres Peyrot

*The plastic continent : a calm zone in the Pacific Ocean where currents carry floating detritus that accumulates in mass. This sea of rubbish, visible only from aboard a boat, was first discovered in 1997 by Captain Charles Moore. It took him almost a week to cross the plastic mass. He was astonished by what he had found in this little-traveled part of the world, and began an association to study the phenomenon, and bring it to public attention (for more information, see www.alagita.org).