The Tara sailboat on its way back after two years of harvesting microorganisms

The Tara sailboat on its way back after two years of harvesting micro-organisms

Tara's mission aimed to better understand marine microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, phytoplankton, zooplankton and larvae.

The French schooner Tara dropped anchor in Senegal before beginning its return to Europe and completing almost two years of navigation in the South Atlantic intended for the study of marine micro-organisms and their key role in the ocean ecosystem.

The French schooner Tara anchored in Senegal before beginning its return to Europe and complete almost two years of navigation in the South Atlantic dedicated to the study of marine microorganisms and their key role in the ocean ecosystem.

Since casting off on December 12, 2020 from its home port of Lorient (western France), the laboratory sailboat designed by explorer Jean-Louis Étienne in the 1980s traveled some 38,000 miles (approximately 70,000 kilometres), reaching Chile, touching the edge of Antarctica in the Weddell Sea and crossing the ocean back up the West African coast.

< p class="e-p">With its six sailors and a regularly renewed team of several scientists of all nationalities, the mission called “Microbiomes” took samples to be used to understand the poorly known functioning of microorganisms, actors largely invisible to the naked eye. and yet essential, and their interactions with the climate and pollution.

Micro-organisms (viruses, bacteria, phytoplankton and zooplankton, larvae, etc.) represent two thirds of the biomass navy.

We take water from the surface or deep, which we filter at different size fractions, and that allows us to have access to these different communities of plankton and microbiome, explained Saturday in the port of Dakar Samuel Chaffron, researcher at Tara Océan, the French scientific foundation which works for the preservation of the oceans and which designed the mission.

< p class="sc-v64krj-0 knjbxw">Members of the scientific expedition on the Tara

Another object of study: plastic pollution. For this we collected a lot of plastic – macro, micro and nano – during the whole mission, he said.

In its African part, the mission, to which are associated 42 research institutes around the world, has been particularly interested in rivers such as the Congo or the Gambia, their influence on biodiversity and pollution by micro-plastics.

The mission is also intended to educate the general public and raise awareness of ocean issues during its stopovers and to be used for political advocacy.

“We must make a Marshall plan for ecological transition around the world. »

— Romain Troublé, CEO of Tara Ocean

We are seeing that we are touching the limits of everything. We fish too much, the ecosystem shows it: there has been no thiof [white grouper] here for a few years. We pollute too much, you only have to see the port of Dakar to understand it, he was alarmed.

Senegal, where the 36 meter sailboat arrived on Monday, constitutes the last sequence dedicated to science and awareness of the cause of the oceans before the return via Lisbon and an arrival in Lorient scheduled for mid-October.

Between September 11 and 19, the mission will be on the Casamance River, said a spokeswoman for Tara Océan.

Sampling in Senegalese waters allows us to know what there is at that time, the fish that are currently in the waters of Senegal and that cannot migrate, what do they feed on, rejoiced Baye Cheikh Mbaye, Senegalese oceanologist.

He deplores the lack of means and data of Senegalese research institutes. Tara's mission is to close a gap, he said.

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