Microplastic pollution on the French Atlantic coastline... investigated by the Observatoire du Plancton

Numerous studies have demonstrated, inventoried and mapped the presence of microplastics in the Mediterranean, but very little data has been collected on the Atlantic coast. This is the aim of the project led by the Observatoire du Plancton, a Morbihan-based association. It will share the results of its research with professionals and the general public.

Environment & biodiversity

  • Location:
    Port-Louis (France)
  • Sponsor:
    Yoann Burban
  • Grant:
    €10,000 at the selection committee meeting on 21 October 2019

Project leader

Observatoire du Plancton

"Veolia has a long history of supporting players committed to the environment: local authorities, including Lorient Agglomération, institutional structures such as the Université Bretagne Sud and others. With the Observatoire du Plancton in the heart of Morbihan, in Lorient - which is the home port of the renowned oceanographic observation schooner Tara, supported by our Foundation - Veolia is renewing its commitment to protecting the oceans.”
Yoann Burban

The goal of the Observatoire du Plancton, created in 2003 and based in Port-Louis, Morbihan, is twofold. The association regularly conducts scientific studies on plankton: its observations come from plankton monitoring, physico-chemical water analyses, and microplastic sampling. Its teams work on different areas along the South Brittany coastline: the Gulf of Morbihan, the Etel river, Lorient harbour, etc.

The other goal of the Observatoire du Plancton is to share the results of its work with as many people as possible: maritime professionals, amateur sailors, volunteers from environmental protection associations, schoolchildren, the general public, etc.


Improving knowledge of plastic pollution in the oceans

Microplastics are plastic particles smaller than 5 millimetres that drift and threaten the balance of marine biodiversity. They are present everywhere in the oceans, including in the sediment and in organisms. In the Mediterranean, their presence has already been well documented, inventoried and mapped. But data for France’s Atlantic coast is much rarer. This lack of knowledge makes it impossible to establish the extent of microplastic pollution and thus to estimate the potential danger to people and ecosystems. Out of the question therefore to devise global solutions that would address the problem.


Looking for data

The Observatoire du Plancton is therefore launching a new scientific mission coordinated by the Université de Bretagne Sud that will study microplastics. In keeping with the observatory's mission, the objective is twofold: both scientific and educational.

In order to acquire new knowledge about local microplastics pollution and its geographical and time-based distribution, the observatory will rely on participatory science. The association will involve the relevant associations in extracting and characterizing the microplastics. The prerequisite is to standardize collection methods to ensure homogeneous data that can be exploited by the scientific community. To this end, and with the support of the Veolia Foundation, the Observatoire du Plancton is equipping itself with an imaging system to measure and classify organisms present in a liquid medium: a Zooscan.

This mission is all the more important as the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive sets Member States the objective of achieving "good environmental status" in European marine waters by 2020. The Observatoire du Plancton project is a perfect fit for this objective.