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Better insight into plastic pollution on both land and sea: the new Tara Ocean Foundation expedition

Since 2017, IFGR has constantly spoken of the interaction between rivers, seas and oceans, with a key problem: that of plastic pollution. 80% of the macro- and microplastic waste measuring several millimetres in diameter present in salt water comes from the land (runoff and rivers) and represents a volume of about 8 million tonnes a year (that is to say the equivalent of one tipper truck a minute!).

What’s more, 10 of the world’s rivers account for 90% of this pollution. So that our oceans do not contain more plastic than fishes in weight by 2050, as predicted by certain studies, it is necessary to develop scientific knowledge and encourage industrial innovations to limit the production of plastic and combat pollution.

Scientific programme and pedagogical section

What are the sources of pollution? In what forms, where and in what quantities does this waste enter the oceans and what are their impacts on marine biodiversity?

In order to answer all these questions, the schooner Tara with forty scientists from the CNRS on board, has just left for a new expedition that will take it to the estuaries of ten great European rivers: the Thames (UK), the Elbe and the Rhine (Germany), the Seine, the Loire, the Garonne and the Rhone (France), the Tagus (Portugal), the Ebro (Spain) and the Tiber (Italy), to carry out a sampling campaign and meetings with the general public in order to share awareness of the challenges linked to knowledge and preservation of the oceans.

The schooner left Lorient, its home port, on 23 May, and will return there at the end of November.

Erik Orsenna, Chairman of IFGR, is the sponsor of the TARA Ocean Foundation in 2019-2020. For him, “Tara is a living encyclopaedia, an encyclopedia in motion” and this new mission is essential to analyse the entire water cycle:  “currently, the scientists of the new microplastics mission study the link between rivers and oceans. As a river specialist, I have the strong conviction that the health of the ocean depends on the health of the rivers. And the health of the rivers depends on how the inhabitants take care of them and  what is released into the rivers. That is to say, the respect they and we must have for the rivers.”

Find the full interview written by Noélie Pansiot and Elodie Bernollin from the Tara Oceans Foundation here

© Elodie Bernollin / Fondation Tara Océan

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