As the schooner celebrates her 30th birthday, and having traveled more than 450,000 km around the globe over a 15-year period, the Tara Expeditions Foundation has just become the Tara Ocean Foundation.
15 years of research and scientific exploration
If you ask Etienne Bourgois, co-founder (with agnès b) and president of the Tara Océan Foundation, what his most remarkable experience aboard Tara was, he responds immediately: the incredible challenge of the expedition Tara Arctic, the drift accomplished in 507 days from 2006 to 2008. An unparalleled human adventure during which the boat and crew were locked into the Arctic pack ice. «We knew exactly when we would depart, but we didn’t know if and when we would come back », he says. « It was a risky mission with a lot of stress, but also an exceptional adventure. We learned a great deal about this region extremely affected by warming, but scarcely talked about at the time»..
Tara in the centre of ice © A.Deniaud / Tara Ocean Foundation
Today our assessment of the situation is consequential and resolutely turned towards the future. «In 15 years, we have achieved a lot in terms of science and raising awareness, and we keep getting better».The data from Tara continues to yield results, for example, the cover articles in the journal Science (May 2015) and Cell magazine (May 2019), and this is only the beginning! A colossal amount of scientific work has been accomplished with very important results, surpassing by far what we had originally imagined. Our work contributes to a better understanding of the Ocean and environmental changes in the marine environment», explains Etienne Bourgois. The Tara Ocean Foundation and its research programs provide (and will continue to provide) answers to essential questions.
With 4 major expeditions accomplished since 2006, the Tara Ocean Foundation is proud to celebrate this state-of-the-art research with longterm partners and friends. Looking towards the future of the Ocean, our research is exemplified by the very innovative GO-SEE project, and also the creation (in 2018) of the Tara Oceans Research Federation which aims to modelize the planktonic ecosystem thanks to the database established by Tara Océan Foundation.
Till Roethig and Oceana Salle, scientists of Tara are sampling corals in Kiribati © Pete West / BioQuest Studios / Tara Ocean Foundation
The soon-to-be-launched 2019 Mission on Microplastics will further enrich our 10 years of research on plastic. We especially focused on surface pollution in the Mediterranean Sea in 2014. Then, in 2017 we discovered an important accumulation zone in the Arctic Ocean; and in 2018, we identified the biodiversity associated with microplastics in the north Pacific vortex. Now the schooner Tara and her scientific partners are setting out to investigate and describe the process of plastic pollution, from land to sea.
A new name for a fundamental mission
Romain Troublé, executive director of the Foundation, explains that «by changing our name, we intend to emphasize the Foundation’s positioning on 2 main missions: explore and share ». The introduction of the word Ocean is important for communicating Tara’s expertise and renown gained over the years through our discoveries on the marine environment. «This change means a lot, about the road already traveled and also our future ambitions. We wish to become a foundation of reference concerning this ecosystem in France, and greatly increase the impact of this knowledge essential for humanity. Putting the ocean at the heart of our identity is a first step in this direction». Since 2016, the foundation has been recognized as a public interest group by the French government», adds Etienne Bourgois. « We have accomplished a lot in 15 years, but be assured— the adventure is just beginning! We invite as many people as possible to turn towards the Ocean and take a new look at this ecosystem, essential to the balance of our planet and our future».
Executive Director, Romain Troublé (left), and President of Tara Ocean Foundation, Etienne Bourgois (right) © Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Ocean Foundation
In terms of educational outreach, the success of the program Graines de Reporters Scientifiques, as well as our many exhibitions and a new learning kit about plastic pollution, are all positive signals. These efforts aim to bring the Ocean into the classroom and raise awareness about the importance of preserving marine ecosystems. «It is essential that schools and teachers appropriate the Tara project. Often it’s when children feel very concerned that adults become involved. Of course it would be great to find other ways of raising adults’ awareness, because time is running out», adds Etienne Bourgois.
Children visit the schooner Tara in Japan © Noémie Olive / Tara Ocean Foundation
To bring about this change in the way we regard the Ocean at all levels of society, the Foundation pursues advocacy missions, that contribute to better global governance of the Ocean. Tara also shares information with decision makers to help change things. The Tara Ocean Foundation is one of the few NGOs representing the Ocean at the United Nations, in the role of ‘special observer’ since 2015.
Today, negotiations on the status of the High Sea are only at their beginning. «We are keen on preserving the freedom of research on the high seas, as well as promoting the notion of preserving the global heritage of biodiversity and its genetic resources », says André Abreu, director of international political relations.
Tara’s presence in September 2019 at the release of the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in Monaco will reinforce the advocacy of the Foundation and its partners in the Ocean & Climate Platform. We cannot miss this exceptional opportunity to include the Ocean in the next climate negotiations— the COP25 — to be held in Chile at the end of this year.
Romain Troublé, agnès b., Etienne Bourgois and Eric Karsenti, met the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon in NYC © L.Bourgois / Tara Ocean Foundation
Many challenges ahead
One of tomorrow’s challenges will be to understand the Arctic ecosystem—little known, fragile and highly impacted by climate change. «It’s urgent for us to return there to study this patrimony disappearing at such a brisk pace», says Romain Troublé.
We still have a long way to go, but our 21st century scientific model recalls the importance of financial support from partners in both private and public sectors. «The Foundation embodies freedom of speech and freedom to act», says Etienne Bourgois. «agnès b. and the agnès b. Endowment provide the Foundation’s operating costs, but the support of partners and donors is crucial for facing the many challenges stilling awaiting us».
Long live the Tara Ocean Foundation!
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