A platform for high-level research missions, Tara is setting course for the Mediterranean. Its mission? To research plastic particles and raise public awareness of the fragility of marine biodiversity.
Tara has been sailing the world’s seas and oceans for 10 years. A legendary boat built for extreme conditions, Tara is in a class of its own and can be adapted to any mission, from the Arctic ice pack to voyages across the Atlantic, according to Romain Troublé. After taking part in two America’s Cup races, this navigator and biologist by training is now the secretary general of Tara Expeditions. Since 2003, this French non-profit organization founded by Agnès b. and Etienne Bourgois has sent the two-masted schooner to the four corners of the planet to study the impact of the environmental crisis on the oceans and to raise public awareness.
The mission is currently focusing on the Mediterranean Sea. “We’re continuing the research into plankton and plastic particles carried out there for more than three years,” explains Romain. According to the European Union, there are 250 billion plastic particles in the Mediterranean Sea.
Tara will cover 16,000 km in seven months, from May to November 2014. On board, eight crew members will sail from Antibes to Beirut via Genoa, Zakynthos and Algiers. They will use a Manta net to take samples. On land, six laboratories will be teaming up with the 10 people working for the foundation up to analyze the collected samples. “We still know very little about plankton, the first link in the food chain, or about the impact of plastic waste on the marine ecosystem,” explains Romain.
Tara is scheduled to call into 22 ports in 11 countries, so if you live along the Mediterranean coastline, you might get to see the schooner. “The scientists will get off the boat to explain Tara’s mission to the public, what oceans do and why they are so important for humanity,” continues Romain.
This is no mean challenge: the Mediterranean is home to around 450 million people, accounts for a third of the world’s cargo traffic, and spans three monotheistic religions. “We think that if we can raise awareness of people across the Mediterranean, we might be able to change their behavior and win their support,” says Romain. Looking further ahead, the team also hopes to promote better waste management and the development of innovative solutions to help protect the oceans, such biodegradable plastic. In some ways, Tara is heir to the explorer and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau, who touched the imaginations of several generations and raised awareness of marine conservation.
The schooner will reach its home port, Lorient, on December 7, 2014, before setting off to research the coral reefs of the Pacific and Southeast Asia in 2015-2016.