Tara Returns with Startling New Data

Following a course from the Panama Canal to Japan (2016–2017), then from New Zealand to China (2017–2018), for two and half years the schooner Tara has gathered over 36,000 samples from 32 coral reef sites, the largest scientifi c campaign dedicated to reef ecosystems. After weighing anchor in May 2016, Tara travelled 100,000 km, with 70 stopovers in 30 countries, and made 2,677 dives at 40 archipelagos before returning to her home port in Lorient, France, on October 27th.

The data collected should enable the international scientific community to unravel the mysteries of how marine organisms adapt to disruptions occurring in the oceanic ecosystems. The 2016-2018 Tara Pacific campaign was the largest ever undertaken on coral reefs.

Certain reefs badly hit by global warming

Initial finding show the extent of reef bleaching reached 30 to 50% at some islands of the Tuamotu Archipelago in French Polynesia, and as much as 90% at Samoan sites visited in November 2016. In Micronesia, some of the reefs of Tuvalu and Kiribati were already dead by the time the schooner arrived, while those of Wallis and Futuna and the Chesterfield Islands were relatively unscathed.

Poisonous cocktail of global climate and local pollution

Tara Pacific offered scientists the opportunity to distinguish the effects of local disturbances (eg pollution, urbanization, sedimentation due to soil erosion, and invasive fishing techniques) from those of planetary changes (eg global warming and ocean acidification) and evaluate the health of coral populations exposed to both.

Tara Sampling water around corals in Japan. (Photo by Pete West Bioquest Studios 11.)

Giving reefs time to recover

The Tara Foundation is also calling for urgent local action to limit human impacts on reefs. Growing volumes of plastic waste, unsustainable tourism in lagoons, runoff from farming and livestock operations, and large coastal infrastructures are all worsening their plight.

Six local actions to take

• Improve waste management, especially for plastic

• Limit the impact of agriculture, livestock breeding, and effluent

• Prevent deforestation to stabilize soil and thereby prevent runoff sedimentation on the reefs

• Ban or restrict the most destructive fishing practices

• Prioritize the environment when developing heavy coastal infrastructures like dikes and industrial ports

• Involve and educate local populations, leading them to preserve their natural environments

Tara Pacific is supported by the CNRS, Paris Sciences et Lettres, the CEA, the Scientific Centre of Monaco, and many other public and private sponsors.