Tara Expedition is a French non-profit organization dedicated to scientific research of the sea and has, since its inception, conducted various expeditions to the arctic researching a myriad of topics such as plastic pollution, air pollution and ocean color and composition. Over the past ten years, Tara conducted extensive research on various aspects of the sea and how it is affected by climate change. Their latest expedition, Tara Méditerranée, will investigate the Mediterranean Sea to study plastic pollution and raise awareness on environmental challenges in the region.
Twenty two countries, home to 450 million people, border the Mediterranean Sea, where pollution has been a major challenge over the years. In 2010, a study by French and Belgian marine biologists estimated that there are 250 billion plastic fragments in the Mediterranean. The estimate comes from samples taken off the coasts of France, Northern Italy and Spain. The Tara Méditerranée will collect samples of these plastics; weigh and measure them, identify their types and study the micro bacteria living on the plastics. Little is known about the impact of plastic pollution and Tara hopes to gain an understanding on the role plastics have on the ecosystem to predict their future impacts on the sea and humans.
As part of their awareness program, Tara Méditerranée will be in Beirut from August 5-12. During this period, there will be a series of press related events, exhibitions and tours to promote Tara’s work and raise environmental awareness. As part of the research, data will also be collected off the Lebanese coast.
According to the WWF, 635,000 tons of crude oil is spilled in the sea every year, along with 80% of the untreated urban sewage from neighboring countries. Fecal coliform can be found all along the Lebanese coast. Plastics fragments, or micro plastics, may only represent one type of pollutant whose direct impact is unknown. Expeditions such as this will facilitate the understanding of which pollutants have the worst impact on the marine ecosystem and human health, providing a scientific basis for prioritizing solutions.