Tara sails off to find the origins of plastic pollution in Europe

On 27 May 2019, the schooner Tara was back sailing the seas with the support of the Veolia Foundation. This new mission is dedicated to the leakage of plastic waste into the sea in Europe with the aim of understanding and better stemming the haemorrhage. This 6-month expedition, whose scientific aspects are coordinated by the CNRS, will sail along several coastlines in Europe and explore 10 major European rivers.


On expedition after expedition since 2010, the schooner Tara has picked up microplastics in almost every one of her nets. From the Mediterranean to the Pacific, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, the observations of the Tara Océan Foundation, sailors and scientists are the same: microplastic fragments are omnipresent in the ocean. Numerous studies have already made it possible to characterize these flows in aquatic environments, but they focus on macro-debris (> 2 cm). However, microplastics have numerous interactions with marine organisms: the dispersal of potentially invasive species or of pathogens attached to plastics, the accumulation of toxic products in the food chain, etc.

Plastics at sea, the solutions are on land! 

To better understand and stop this haemorrhage, the Tara Océan Foundation is conducting a new mission with the schooner Tara to improve knowledge of the sources of pollution. The aim is to understand their fragmentation in rivers and predict their dispersal into the ocean in order to characterize their impacts on marine biodiversity and their effects on the food chain.

From June to November 2019, with the support of the Veolia Foundation, the schooner Tara will sail the 4 European coastlines and study the mouths of 10 European rivers. Departing from Lorient, the boat will sail to the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and then continue sampling on the Atlantic coast before heading to the Mediterranean.

Mission microplastics, 2019 in figures

  • 10 European rivers studied: the Thames, Elbe, Rhine, Seine, Loire, Gironde, Tagus, Ebro, the Rhône, and Tiber.
  • 6 months between the land and sea
  • 18 stopovers
  • 10 countryside on the European coast
  • 17,000 km

Given the impossibility of collecting all the microplastic already in the sea, the most effective solution is to stop the flow of waste from the continents. The solutions lie on land. This new expedition also intends to inform the measures that should be taken.

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More information about the Veolia Foundation’s support for the Tara Océan Foundation.