To study the relationships between plankton and plastic in the food chain.

How widespread is plastic pollution in the Mediterranean?

Are there areas of accumulation?

Does the type of plastic influence the interaction with plankton?

Does perception of this pollution vary from country to country?

© Tara Ocean Foundation

Over the past decades, the proliferation of plastics has rapidly become a global problem affecting all oceans. With 80% of plastics in the sea originating from land, this pollution highlights the interactions between our daily lives and the ocean, and reinforces the need for a transition to an economy that is more respectful of the planet. During the Tara Mediterranean expedition in 2014, the schooner crisscrossed the Mare nostrum to study the interaction of plastics with plankton, and biodiversity in general. First edifying observation: of the 2000 samples taken during the expedition from 350 different sites, all contained plastic fragments.

The Basics

The Mediterranean as a laboratory

Mare Nostrum has seen its population triple in 50 years within three major monotheistic cultures, bringing together multiple levels of development on its two shores.

  • 7months of expedition

  • 15 000kilometers traveled

  • 12 000people welcomed on board

  • 13countries visited

« Tara is a state-of-the-art laboratory made available for scientific research during long periods of time. Tara is also a human adventure with a very efficient crew and partners motivated by the challenge, all supporting the Tara Ocean Foundation’s desire to transmit knowledge to the general public, especially young people, in the countries visited. My collaboration with Tara since 2007 is certainly the most beautiful and complete experience that I’ve had in my career. »

Gaby Gorsky – Scientific co-ordinator

75,000 plastic fragments isolated and preserved in a public database!

analyse les échantillons prélevés dans l'Océan
Balance Sheet

Plastics and microorganisms, a dangerous cocktail?

Baseline reference

The on-board interdisciplinary team developed exclusive protocols and used cutting-edge technologies during this expedition to create a database comprising 75,000 plastic particles. Freely accessible to the scientific community, this is the largest database of microplastics collected and referenced to date.

Entering the food chain

The work shows that in certain places the concentrations of surface microplastics are identical to those of zooplankton, which fish feed on. In these areas, half of the food ingested by fish may contain microplastics.

The challenge of raising awareness

For 7 months, Tara went to meet the men, women and children who inhabit the Mediterranean coast. Despite crises, despite austerity and even sometimes war, they all told us of their wish for a healthy, beautiful and inspiring Mediterranean Sea, as it has existed for millennia. In Lebanon, Tunisia, Greece, Algeria, despite very difficult contexts, we found a population passionate about ecological issues, and ready to make collective efforts to improve the cleanliness of their coasts and beaches, rivers and sea.

The team

Artists, sailors, researchers united in the face of plastic pollution

On deck, a team of multidisciplinary scientists coordinated by Maria-Luiza Pedrotti (CNRS / SU), sailors and 11 artists-in-residence.

Labs & partners

Etienne Bourgois

Etienne Bourgois

President and co-founder of the Tara Ocean Foundation

Maria luiza Pedrotti

Maria-Luiza Pedrotti

Scientific Director of Tara Mediterranean, CNRS Research Director in Villefranche-sur-Mer

Dive into the expedition

Ocean Culture

Présentation de microplastiques dans des boîtes de Pétri.

Tara Microplastics

An expedition along 9 major European rivers to describe and understand the origins and flux of plastic waste.

Tara mission Microbiomes

Mission Microbiomes

Understanding the invisible life of the ocean to protect our future

Our partners

Major partner