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2024 News


Wednesday 17 July 2024

BET WON: First successful DNA sequencing!

Wednesday 17 July will go down as a major milestone for the OceanoScientific association. A huge success! It was on that morning, in the heart of summer, between the thick walls of the Natural History Museum of Nîmes (1895 - France), home to the DNA Learning Center run by Professor Christian Siatka, a renowned geneticist and Professor at the University of Nîmes, Vice-President of OceanoScientific and Scientific Director of the OceanoScientific Coral Reef Expeditions, that the first DNA sequencing of tiny sponge samples collected during the OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Expedition Corsica 2024 was carried out. Clara Bayol, a future biology engineer in her final internship at OceanoScientific, carried out the entire DNA extraction procedure herself, under the guidance of Professor Siatka. The result is the culmination of more than four years' persistence in making progress along a path that generated so much criticism and scorn from many scientists and observers on the universal theme prior to any innovation: "You will never make it, it's impossible!"


First result: a total of 10 micrograms of DNA in the very first sample. And even more in subsequent samples. "It's a very good quantity of DNA, very usable!" says Professor Christian Siatka with a smile, as Clara Bayol looks on. Photo OceanoScientific

"I have been dreaming about this moment for over four years now", explains Yvan Griboval, the driving force behind the REFRACOR 2030 project to preserve the genetic data of France's reef heritage, in particular with a view to virtuously exploiting the molecules of interest in marine sponges. "To offer young people the opportunity to build a professional career in the fields of Health, Well-being and Environmental Services, in line with the emergence of new professions in the Blue Economy through the use of bioinformatics and Artificial Intelligence (AI)"


"The project to build up the first genetic database of marine organisms by implementing totally autonomous and CO2-free sailing expeditions in open maritime areas - excluding Marine Parks and Marine Protected Areas - has now been proven to be realistic. This will be both an opportunity to supply students with DNA sequences to search for molecules of interest, and to safeguard genetic data from marine organisms threatened by the Sixth Extinction for the benefit of fundamental research".


Professor Christian Siatka added: "The NanodropTM assay steps enabled us to quantify the extracted DNA and assess its purity. The excellent extraction results obtained enable us to carry out the next sequencing steps on NanoporeTM".


The tiny samples of twelve different species of marine sponges collected as part of the OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Expedition Corsica 2024 are presented by Yvan Griboval and Clara Bayol to Professor Christian Siatka (in the middle) at the DNA Learning Center of Nîmes (France). Photo OceanoScientific


Before starting to sequence the sponge samples, Professor Christian Siatka explains to Clara Bayol the rigorous procedure for extracting DNA under the best possible conditions, with the greatest chance of success. Photo OceanoScientific


In front of the camera of Aurore Partouche, who is recording the video that will document this crucial stage of the REFRACOR 2030 Project and feed the social networks, Clara Bayol collects microscopic parcels of a sponge sample in preparation for DNA extraction. Photo OceanoScientific


Crucial centrifugation step to purify DNA. Professor Christian Siatka performs the operation under the watchful eye of Clara Bayol. Photo OceanoScientific 


Now that the purification columns containing the fixed DNA have been cleaned, we know whether the sponge's DNA is accessible. Or not... Photo OceanoScientific 


MinIONTM (Oxford Nanopore Technologies) screen at the end of the first long-read sequencing of a sponge genome, displaying over 53 million nucleotides analyzed. Photo Christian Siatka - DNA Learning Center

Wednesday 3 July 2024

Princely departure for the BioDivMed Mission2024

On Thursday 27 June at the Yacht Club de Monaco, H.S.H. the Sovereign Prince Albert II picked up the moorings handed to Him by Yvan Griboval for the departure of the second OceanoScientific eDNA Mediterranean Expedition. This expedition is part of the BioDivMed Mission launched by the Rhone Mediterranean Corsica water Agency in collaboration with the Joint Research Unit Marbec - University of Montpellier and the Spygen company. As soon as they left the Y.C.M. Marina, the crew of the Lagoon 570 LOVE THE OCEAN headed east to collect eDNA samples at the Marine Biodiversity Sentinel Site (MBSS) of Menton, at the eastern end of the French mainland Mediterranean coastline, along which no fewer than sixty MBSSs have been identified as far as the Spanish border. After the LOVE THE OCEAN’s return to its technical base in Port Saint Louis du Rhône, its crew will be collecting eDNA from around twenty Marine Biodiversity Sentinel Sites from Monaco to Carnon (Hérault - France) using the Vanguard - Suzuki RIB fitted with a unique equipment developed by OceanoScientific. It enables eDNA samples to be collected with the utmost scientific rigor.


H.S.H. the Sovereign Prince picked up the moorings of the catamaran LOVE THE OCEAN from Yvan Griboval as he left the pontoon of honor of the Yacht Club de Monaco for the launch of the OceanoScientific eDNA Mediterranean Expedition 2024

Photo Axel Ballesto - Palais Princier


Before setting sail, Justine Camus, Coordinator of the OceanoScientific eDNA Mediterranean Expedition, Yvan Griboval and Clara Bayol took delivery of the Spygen kits for collecting the eDNA samples brought by Professor David Mouillot and Marie Orblin, Research Engineer at the UMR Marbec - University of Montpellier. Photo OceanoScientific


Just before the LOVE THE OCEAN set sail, Professor David Mouillot recalled the excellent results of the BioDivMed Mission 2023, in which the OceanoScientific association played an active part, and insisted on the need to repeat this type of eDNA collection every year on around sixty Marine Biodiversity Sentinel Sites between Menton and Banyuls-sur-Mer. 

Photo Mesi - Yacht Club de Monaco


H.S.H. the Sovereign Prince and Bernard d'Alessandri, General Director of the Yacht Club de Monaco wished "Bon Vent" to the crew of the LOVE THE OCEAN, engaged for the second year running in the BioDivMed Mission

Photo Mesi - Yacht Club de Monaco


Aboard the Vanguard - Suzuki, Justine Camus (front left) and her team on 27 June: Clara Bayol (back), Marie Orblin and Simon Huret at the controls, carried out the first double collection of eDNA at the Marine Biodiversity Sentinel Site (MBSS) of Menton. Photo OceanoScientific


Wednesday 26 June 2024

BioDivMed Mission 2024 between Menton and Carnon

Following on from the OceanoScientific eDNA Mediterranean Expedition 2023, carried out as part of the BioDivMed Mission 2023, the second edition of this oceanographic campaign will leave the Yacht Club de Monaco on Thursday 27 June at 11.00 AM and will begin by collecting environmental DNA (eDNA) samples from the Marine Biodiversity Sentinel Site (MBSS) of Menton, at the eastern end of the French mainland Mediterranean coastline, where no fewer than sixty MBSSs have been identified as far as the Spanish border. This OceanoScientific Expedition is part of a first cycle 2023-2027. The OceanoScientific association is a member of the BioDivMed Consortium set up at the initiative of the Rhone Mediterranean Corsica water Agency with the Joint Research Unit Marbec - University of Montpellier and the company Spygen. Under the scientific direction of Professor David Mouillot (Marbec - University of Montpellier), the OceanoScientific team will this year be collecting eDNA samples from around twenty Sentinel Sites from Menton (Alpes-Maritimes) to Carnon (Hérault) using the Lagoon 570 LOVE THE OCEAN fitted with a Vanguard - Suzuki RIB.


No fewer than sixty Marine Biodiversity Sentinel Sites (MBSS) have been identified, most of them as a result of the experience gained during the OceanoScientific eDNA Mediterranean Expedition 2023 carried out as part of the BioDivMed Mission.

Wednesday 19 June 2024

Meet us at the Yacht Club de Monaco

Thursday 27 June at 11.00 AM

Following the success of the OceanoScientific eDNA Mediterranean Expedition 2023, the oceanography logistics platform LOVE THE OCEAN will leave the pontoon of honor of the Yacht Club de Monaco at 11.00 AM on Thursday 27 June, marking the start of the second edition of this scientific campaign as part of the BioDivMed Mission. The OceanoScientific association is a member of the BioDivMed Consortium, which brings together, on the initiative of the Rhone Mediterranean Corsica water Agency: the Joint Research Unit Marbec - University of Montpellier in collaboration with the Centre d'Écologie Fonctionnelle & Évolutive, the compagnies Spygen and Andromède Océanologie as well as the philanthropic associations We are Méditerranée and OceanoScientific. Yvan Griboval and his team, coordinated by Justine Camus, will begin this second mission to identify the fishes, crustaceans and cephalopods of the Mediterranean coast at the Marine Biodiversity Sentinel Station of Menton. On the occasion of the departure of the Yacht Club de Monaco, Professor David Mouillot (Marbec - University of Montpellier) will present the positive and encouraging results of the BioDivMed Mission 2023 and the future prospects for this strategy of a synchronized and standardized scientific inventory of coastal marine biodiversity: an innovation that positions France as a leader in this unprecedented ... and truly effective method.


Wednesday 5 June 2024

Great success for the OceanoScientific Coral Reefs

Corsica Expedition 2024

The OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Corsica Expedition 2024 took place in southern Corsica from 25 May to 4 June in the Gulf of Porto-Vecchio, outside the Bonifacio Marine Park, with the Lagoon 570 catamaran LOVE THE OCEAN and the Suzuki-powered Vanguard RIB. This was the first test phase of the REssources FRAnçaises CORalliennes - REFRACOR 2030 project, mentioned in our Newsletters of 10 and 17 April. The result is perfectly in line with the ambitious objectives: twelve different species of sponges were collected and their 32 small samples were conditioned to extract the DNA of these marine organisms with multiple properties, probably rich in molecules of interest for Health and Wellbeing. This first underwater OceanoScientific Expedition was made possible by the kind support of Dive Lyon, a specialist Tek diving shop run by Rémi Prat, and Bonifacio Plongée, the leading diving club in southern Corsica, run by the friendly Jordi Rossi.

The OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Corsica Expedition 2024 in 58 seconds:


Dream Team: the three professional divers: Justine Camus (Professional Diver / Expedition Coordinator), Michèle Leduc (Professional Scientific Diver / Head of the Hyperbaric Operations), Manon Gomez y Gimenez (Professional Scientific Diver) at the end of their first day of collection on board the LOVE THE OCEAN oceanographic logistic platform with the very first sponge samples collected. Photo OceanoScientific


It is 6.00 am and the sun is rising over the Gulf of Porto-Vecchio. On board the catamaran LOVE THE OCEAN, the professional diving team is getting ready for the dives. Photo OceanoScientific


The exploration team, from left to right: Manon Gomez y Gimenez (Professional Scientific Diver), Clara Bayol (Biological Engineer / Head of Surface Safety), Michèle Leduc (Professional Scientific Diver / Head of Hyperbaric Operations) and Justine Camus (Professional Diver / Expedition Coordinator). Photo OceanoScientific


The Vanguard – Suzuki RIB is on the dive zone, from left to right: Justine Camus, Manon Gomez y Gimenez and Michèle Leduc are getting ready to dive to depths of four to eleven meters. Photo OceanoScientific


The first task of the scientific divers is to identify an individual from which a small sample will (perhaps) be taken without harming the marine organism, since it will reconstitute itself, like a hair or a nail growing back on a human being. Here Justine Camus on the wreck of the cement ship PINELLA near the Pecorella rock. Photo OceanoScientific


Discovering a marine sponge, sometimes hundreds (thousands? millions?) of years old, is always a source of wonder. This is a Crambe crambe, a species of Orange-Red Encrusting Sponge from the Crambeidae family. Photo OceanoScientific


While Justine films the scientists' work, Manon identifies the species from which a small sample will be taken and Michèle takes photos of the individual to add to the description of the sample. Depth and GPS position complete the information about the collection. Photo OceanoScientific


Once the small sample has been taken, it is packed in a Ziploc bag to be taken back on board LOVE THE OCEAN so that Clara Bayol can immediately pack it and preserve it in a suitable liquid. Photo OceanoScientific


Once the small sample has been taken, it is packed in a Ziploc bag to be taken back on board LOVE THE OCEAN so that Clara Bayol can immediately pack it and preserve it in a suitable liquid. Photo OceanoScientific


On board LOVE THE OCEAN, in the cabin used for scientific purposes, Clara Bayol (Biological Engineer) conditions the small samples of sponges by preserving them in a liquid that does not risk altering their DNA according to the protocol recommended by (Geneticist) Professor Christian Siatka. Photo OceanoScientific


Each sponge sample is preserved in a special tube of 110 mm long and 30 mm diameter, in a liquid that prevents any alteration of the DNA of the individual from which the sample was taken. Photo OceanoScientific 


Back at the OceanoScientific headquarters, the 32 samples are ready to be dispatched to : Professor Christian Siatka (DNA Learning Center in Nîmes), to enable the production of sequencing kits for secondary school pupils; Éric Ginoux, Director of Life & Soft, for deep DNA sequencing using the most efficient scientific equipment to date, in order to preserve in an unprecedented database the genetic data of these marine organisms threatened by the Sixth Extinction. Photo OceanoScientific


Wednesday 29 May 2024

OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Corsica Expedition 2024

The OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Corsica Expedition 2024, carried out with the Lagoon 570 catamaran LOVE THE OCEAN and the Suzuki-powered Vanguard RIB, will start Thursday 30 May 2024 its first professional dives led by Justine Camus (OceanoScientific) in the most accessible and least sensitive areas of the Bonifacio Marine Park. This is the culmination of four intensive years spent getting this highly innovative project off the ground. Above all, it marks the start of the first test phase of the REssources FRAnçaises CORalliennes - REFRACOR 2030 project, mentioned in our Newsletters of 10 and 17 April. We are therefore committed to this crusade to have the French coral reefs recognized as a national heritage to be preserved, developed and exploited virtuously for the benefit of French youth and businesses of all sizes, from fledgling start-ups to large industrial groups. We see this as a matter of national sovereignty. And we have come to Corsica to scientifically observe the biodiversity of the Bonifacio Marine Park, in strict compliance with local regulations.


Encounter with a group of blue and white dolphins at sunrise on the way from Port Saint Louis du Rhône, our technical base, to southern Corsica. The marine biodiversity of the Mediterranean is extremely rich. Photo OceanoScientific 

Mercredi 29 mai 2024
Mercredi 22 mai 2024

Wednesday 22 May 2024

BioDivMed Mission 2023:

Positive and encouraging results

The BioDivMed Mission 2023, the first synchronized and standardized scientific inventory of coastal marine biodiversity, was carried out from the Italian border to the Spanish border, all around Corsica, including ports and lagoons, as well as in the Pelagos Sanctuary, the geographical triangle area between France, Corsica and Italy. The OceanoScientific association has made a major contribution to this project by organizing the OceanoScientific eDNA Mediterranean Expedition 2023 from Menton to Gruissan with the Lagoon 570 catamaran LOVE THE OCEAN. Never before, anywhere in the world, has such an inventory of living organisms been carried out, particularly at so many sites on a fine spatial scale. The first scientific results are positive and encouraging. It is a major innovation that makes France the uncontested leader in the scientific inventory of marine macro-organisms and the observation of coastal marine biodiversity. It is a decision-making tool for preservation and conservation, and the start of long-term observation of Nature.


A few hours before the official presentation of the results of the BioDivMed Mission 2023, those involved in this major scientific innovation gathered around Pierre Boissery and Professor David Mouillot for a final working meeting, in particular to discuss the next BioDivMed Missions, starting with the one in July 2024. Photo OceanoScientific

The Mission BioDivMed was launched in spring 2023 at the initiative of the Mission BioDivMed Consortium (listed below) in line with the National Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 - NBS3 presented by the French Government on Monday 27 November 2023. Barely six months later, this is one of the first concrete results of this major commitment by the French government. It is a great success in terms of the synergy between public institutions, private companies and philanthropic associations. These assets are enabling France to export its expertise and strengthen its leadership in the preservation of Nature for the benefit of future generations of Humanity.


The first observation is that the efforts of coastal communities are effective. The BioDivMed Mission has scientifically demonstrated that the French Mediterranean coastline is rich with an incredible coastal marine biodiversity of fish and shellfish! But some sectors are still devoid of vulnerable species. These areas need to be restored. All in all, this is a major source of satisfaction for all the players involved, including the local authorities, some of whom have long been committed to preserving and conserving their coastlines, in the belief that these are not just tourist sites for passing holidaymakers, but above all a rich natural heritage that must be preserved as a matter of priority. 


Professor David Mouillot, one of the scientific coordinators of the BioDivMed Mission, explains the background to this innovative and extraordinary project: "Imagining BioDivMed is one thing. Us, scientists, we have all dreamt of it. But convincing people of its relevance, then financing and implementing it, is another story! Until April 2023, just a few days before the start of the sampling of 700 eDNA filters - a technique that enables us to detect traces left by organisms in their environment - we were facing a huge operational challenge between sterile filtration, sequencing and analysis of this precious eDNA that reveals the presence of even the rarest species, such as the (harmless) angel shark."


During the OceanoScientific eDNA Mediterranean Expedition 2023, the collection team took advantage of the sunrise, a sea as flat as a lake, often without a breath of wind as here in front of Le Cap d'Agde (France), to implement the most rigorous procedures on board the Vanguard - Suzuki RIB. Photo OceanoScientific

"Once the BioDivMed Consortium had been formed from a combination of skills, it produced its first results in line with the project's ambition. We are surprised and pleased to discover new remarkable habitats with high densities of threatened species, even though they are not necessarily protected sites. This inventory is currently enabling us to draw up an initial overview and develop several biodiversity indicators. These will serve as a dashboard for local stakeholders. This will be a valuable decision-making aid in terms of actions to fight pollution, as well as in terms of definition of new marine reserves, whether limited in time or permanent."

From now on, following on from this innovation, numerous Marine Biodiversity Sentinel Sites - MBSS will be positioned from this year onwards from Menton to Banyuls-sur-Mer - this will be the OceanoScientific eDNA Mediterranean Expedition 2024 - and all-around Corsica for repeated observations during an initial four-year cycle (2025-2028), once again in collaboration with local public and private players and philanthropic associations.


By increasing scientific observations through the establishment of these Coastal Marine Biodiversity Sentinel Sites, it will be possible in the medium term not only to increase the capacity to identify species, but also their density in a given area. This will be a major step forward in promoting "Sustainable coastal fishing for sustainable food supply through short distribution channels".


Partners of the Mission BioDivMed Consortium: Rhone Mediterranean Corsica water Agency, in charge of establishing the state of health of the coastal marine zone, Marbec Joint Research Unit (IRD - Ifremer - CNRS) - University of Montpellier assisted by the Centre d'Écologie Fonctionnelle et Évolutive of Montpellier (France), the companies SPYGEN and Andromède Océanologie, the philanthropic associations of general interest OceanoScientific and We Are Méditerranée.


While the scientists from the BioDivMed Mission were completing their analyses in Montpellier (France), Clara Bayol, Biological engineer in internship within OceanoScientific, presented the association's activities to several group of pupils from Secondary and High School (around 400 students) from the School Complex Saint-Louis Sainte-Marie de Gignac-la-Nerthe (Marseille - France), where she was a pupil, while encouraging them to think about the new professions in the Blue Economy generated by the use of bioinformatics applied to marine organisms. Photo Ensemble Scolaire Saint-Louis Sainte-Marie


On Thursday 16 May, Cécile d'Estais, Executive Director of OceanoScientific and Justine Camus, Project Manager, raised awareness among sixty high school students of the need to preserve the Ocean and to take an interest in the emerging professions of the Blue Economy: 39 final year pupils from the Lycée Calmette in Nice, and as part of their Erasmus exchange, 12 Swedish correspondents from the Kungsängsgymnasiet in Sala and 9 Austrian correspondents from the BRG Enns. 

Photo OceanoScientific 

Wednesday 15 May 2024

Why are we interested in sponges?

It has been nearly five years since the OceanoScientific association focused its scientific exploratory activities on the French coral reefs. It was more than three years ago that the decision was taken to focus on marine sponges. The first multicellular animals to appear on the planet 760 million years ago, sponges contain molecules of interest for Health (Human - Animal), Well-being (Dermatology - Cosmetology - Nutrition) and Environmental Services (Agriculture - Aquaculture - Depollution). Not so long ago, exploiting these treasures for Humanity meant harvesting large numbers of live animals. So, it seemed inconceivable to us to encourage the plundering of these treasures by demonstrating the potential benefits of these marine organisms for Humanity. Until we met Professor Christian Siatka, Director of the Genotyping and Genomics platform at the DNA Learning Center in Nîmes, who has since become Vice-President of the OceanoScientific association and Scientific Director of the OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Expeditions. Before the end of May, we will (finally!) be starting the first of the OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Expeditions 2023-2030 with our Lagoon 570 LOVE THE OCEAN.


Marine sponges contain molecules of interest for Health (Human - Animal), Well-being (Dermatology - Cosmetology - Nutrition) and Environmental Services (Agriculture - Aquaculture - Depollution). Caribbean sponges - Photo Thierry Pérez, CNRS IMBE Research Director - Endoume Marine Station (Marseille - France)

Professor Christian Siatka pointed us in the direction of genetics. Before him, Professor Thierry Pérez, CNRS Research Director at the Institut Méditerranéen de Biodiversité et d'Écologie Marine - IMBE based at the Endoume Marine Station (Marseille - France), shared his passion for sponges with us, as he tirelessly travels the world to learn more about these "particular" benthic sessile animals that populate coral reefs and are crucial factors in the good health of the surrounding biodiversity.


Professor Christian Siatka is now in the best position to explain why we are so passionately interested in sponges: "Marine sponges are key organisms in marine ecosystems and are among the oldest and most primitive forms of animal life on Earth. Indeed, they colonized the oceans around 760 million years ago. They are fascinating not only for their role in filtering water, but also as a source of impressive microbial diversity, offering a reservoir for bioprospecting. Their complex microbiome is made up of a multitude of functioning taxonomic units, each playing a specific ecological role and contributing to the health and survival of the host."


"Next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies have revolutionized our ability to analyze these microbial communities, producing detailed genetic data that reveals valuable information about the adaptation and function of these organisms. At the same time, the application of artificial intelligence (AI) to this data has enabled further exploration, identifying rare genetic sequences and establishing complex phylogenetic links, opening up new perspectives in biomedical and biotechnological research. These advances also have implications for the resilience of marine ecosystems facing environmental change and for the conservation of marine biodiversity."


"Ultimately, the combination of these advanced technologies illustrates the immense potential of marine ecosystems and promises to catalyze significant progress in marine biotechnology. This is clearly a sustainable source of new jobs for young people in the short and medium term."


"The detailed study of the microbiome of marine sponges reveals not only the diversity of bacterial species present, but also the functional richness of these communities. Metagenomic and metabolomic studies have shown that sponge microbiota produces a range of secondary metabolites, some of which possess antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties (Pita and al., 2018)."


"These metabolites are not only promising candidates for pharmaceutical applications but are also essential for the survival and health of the sponge, suggesting an evolved symbiosis for defense against pathogens and inter-species competition."


Scientists have inventoried around eight thousand species of sponges, but they reckon that there are probably twice,

three times or even more than that number since very deep missions have enabled the discovery of sponges at depths

of over two thousand meters. Caribbean sponges - Photo Thierry Pérez, CNRS IMBE Research Director - Endoume Marine Station (Marseille - France)

"The recent revolution in next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies has made it possible to generate massive amounts of genetic data from sponges and their microbial communities."


"Long-read and short-read NGS platforms offer unprecedented resolution of genetic profiles, revealing not only the identity of the species present, but also their potentiated biological functioning (Taylor et al., 2013)."


"Bioinformatic analysis of these large datasets has shed light on the specific adaptation of sponge microbiota to their environment and host, and the metabolic strategies they employ to thrive in diverse marine habitats (Fan and al., 2012)."


"The extent of the data produced by next-generation sequencing creates challenges in terms of data storage, management and analysis. This is where bioinformatics tools become indispensable. They make it possible to manage large databases and apply data processing algorithms to annotate sequences and predict their function (Quince and al., 2017)."


"The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in marine studies is a major breakthrough, particularly in the complex analysis of sequencing. Machine learning algorithms, such as convolutional neural networks and deep learning, can process and interpret these large amounts of sequencing data with unprecedented accuracy and speed."


"The application of these AI tools has enabled complex phylogenetic relations to be revealed, rare genetic sequences to be identified and metabolic functions to be predicted, opening up new paths for the characterization of new microbial species and the discovery of bioactive compounds (Moitinho-Silva and al., 2017)."


"The integration of AI and advanced next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies in the study of marine sponges is a major breakthrough for science. It makes it possible to decrypt the complexity of microbial communities, establish precise phylogenetic maps and discover genes with potential therapeutic applications".


In conclusion, scientific opportunities such as these open new career paths, both in terms of research and exploitation. These are the emerging professions of the Blue Economy, and we want to encourage young secondary school students to get involved in them at a time when they must make career choices in accordance with the Parcoursup system (a French platform for admission to superior education).


This will be the theme of the second edition of the Tour MER & MÉTIERS - Revealing the vocations of Tomorrow, scheduled for the first trimester of the 2024-2025 school year, decreed the Year of the Sea by the President of France to lead up to the third United Nations Ocean Conference - UNOC Nice 25, to be held in France in city of the Baie des Anges from 5 to 15 June 2025.


The first OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Expedition in the 2023-2030 cycle will take the crew of the LOVE THE OCEAN oceanographic logistics platform to the south of Corsica. It will sail in total autonomy, without CO2 emission, although its crew will take it to areas accessible to all. Mediterranean sponges - Photo Thierry Pérez, CNRS IMBE Research Director - Endoume Marine Station (Marseille - France)

Mercredi 15 mai 2024

Wednesday 24 April 2024

The Mediterranean Sea maps its coastal biodiversity:

Results presented on 22 May

To preserve marine biodiversity, we need to know what it is and how it is mapped... Inventorying marine biodiversity involves identifying and then counting all the species living in a given ecosystem. This makes it possible to monitor temporal trends and answers to disturbances, and to take action according to the presence of rare or vulnerable species. The presence and spread of invasive species, potentially harmful to ecosystems, can also be monitored thanks to a regular and exhaustive inventory of marine biodiversity. Professor David Mouillot (UMR Marbec - University of Montpellier) has worked with a large consortium to implement an innovative methodology developed by SpyGen using environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding, in collaboration with the Centre d’Écologie Fonctionnelle et Évolutive in Montpellier (France). This ambitious BioDivMed 2023 Mission has been made possible thanks to the support of the Rhone Mediterranean Corsica Water Agency. We worked under the scientific direction of Professor David Mouillot last July during the first OceanoScientific eDNA Mediterranean Expedition. We interviewed him aboard the Lagoon 570 LOVE THE OCEAN. Read on before he presents the results of this ambitious study in Montpellier on 22 May. It makes France an undisputed leader in this promising scientific field...


As part of the first BioDivMed Mission, the OceanoScientific eDNA Mediterranean Expedition 2023 collected 104 samples

at 52 stations from Menton to Gruissan during July. Meanwhile, Andromède Océanologie was doing the same around Corsica. Marbec map - University of Montpellier / OceanoScientific

Until the BioDivMed 2023 Mission, the methods used to survey coastal marine fauna were: either destructive and incomplete (fishing / fishing catches); or limited in depth and surface area (scuba-diving visual inventory); or required complex and expensive equipment to deploy, with many hours of analysis (underwater video cameras). All these protocols are particularly invasive. They can also bias the results because the area explored is too limited (fishing/diving), or because the most elusive animals flee, or because the smallest (crypto-benthic fishes) and rarest (invasive species) are not detected, etc. But Professor David Mouillot, at the head of a large consortium, has initiated another scientific method... much more exhaustive and less biased!


Based at the University of Montpellier, David Mouillot is a Professor of Coastal Marine Systems Ecology at the Marbec Joint Research Unit (UMR), which has four main supervisory bodies: the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development) - IRD, the Institut Français de Recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer - Ifremer, the University of Montpellier and the National Centre for Scientific Research - CNRS, as well as a secondary supervisory body: the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment - INRAE.  


David Mouillot: "The environmental DNA is the DNA fragments that all organisms release into their environment, whether on land or in the sea. Initially, it was used to study biodiversity on land, in lakes and in rivers. It was only about ten years ago that we began to take an interest in marine eDNA. At first, we thought we were looking for something impossible to filter or collect. In fact, over the last few years we have realized that all marine organisms leave a lot of DNA in the water. Now, we are finally able to collect and analyze it in order to detect many species that, until now, were not identified."


"Interest in marine environmental DNA began in the 2010s with the Danish, who were the first to focus on it. But, with the French company SpyGen based in Bourget-du-Lac [between Chambéry and Aix-les-Bains - France], we carried out our first sea trials in 2016-2017 thanks to the Explorations de Monaco. We took a lot of risks at the start! Now, I can say without a doubt that French research is no longer lagging behind in this study of marine environmental DNA of the marine environment. We are one of the research groups with the most samples worldwide, from the North Pole to the South Pole, via the tropics. But it is obviously in our waters, on the French Mediterranean coast, that we have the most precise information about coastal biodiversity thanks to many eDNA surveys."


"The BioDivMed 2023 Mission marks a decisive step in the world leadership to map marine biodiversity using environmental DNA. Thanks to the strong involvement of the Rhone Mediterranean Corsica Water Agency, we will be able to set up sentinel areas along the French Mediterranean coastline. We will be observing trends there for several years, until at least 2027 included. It is an approach that is unique in the world...".


Handing over of the environmental DNA (eDNA) samples to the Professor David Mouillot (Scientific Director / UMR Marbec - University of Montpellier) in a blue polo shirt with, from left to right: Yvan Griboval (OceanoScientific Expeditions Director & Skipper of LOVE THE OCEAN), Léa Griboval (Speed & Depth Manager), Pierre Friant (Second Officer & Pilot of Vanguard-Suzuki), Léni Guillotin (Marine Biologist / Scientific Manager), Justine Camus (OceanoScientific Expedition Coordinator / GPS trajectory Manager). Photo OceanoScientific

"I worked for a long time on data resulting from visual inventory in scuba-diving, by camera or by fisheries landings. We obtained between ten and fifteen species per sample on the Mediterranean coast. Now, with eDNA, we have access to small species, gobies, crypto-benthic species and stealthy, rare species such as the angel shark, so more than 30 species per sample. In fact, for the first time, we can draw up virtually complete maps of fish and crustacean biodiversity on a given site. This is truly unique, both in terms of the range of species we can detect and spatial resolution, as we are sampling one station every 10 kilometers of coastline [5.4 nautical miles]. Thus, we now have a virtually exhaustive picture of biodiversity in the French part of the Mediterranean Sea, which will be complemented by inference from models."


"I only mentioned the presence of species. We manage to find occurrences, we collect a fragment of DNA from a species, we consider that it is present... The next challenge is to obtain estimates of species abundance or density in a given location. How many individuals are on a sentinel area, what are their size, their gender, their stage of maturity? This is a completely different challenge, requiring the filtering of fragments of eDNA that are much longer than those that give us information about the sole species. We are working hard on this with the Centre d'Écologie Fonctionnelle & Évolutive - UMR CEFE based in Montpellier [France]."


The CEFE, which was founded in 1961 as the Centre d'Études Phytosociologiques et Écologiques - CEPE, before changing its name to the Centre d'Écologie Fonctionnelle & Évolutive in 1987, became a Joint Research Unit (UMR) in 2003 with four supervisory bodies: the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - CNRS, the École Pratique des Hautes Études - EPHE, the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement - IRD and the University of Montpellier. Directed since 2019 by Marie-Laure Navas, the UMR CEFE aims to understand the dynamics, functioning and evolution of living organisms from "bacteria to elephant" and "from genome to planet". It is based on three ambitions: Understand the living world in order to anticipate what tomorrow will bring; Lead to innovations and meet society's expectations; Practice a science "that brings people together" and is diverse in its disciplinary approaches. It is therefore a key player in the study of marine biodiversity using eDNA.


Professor David Mouillot (UMR Marbec - University of Montpellier), interviewed on board the Lagoon 570 LOVE THE OCEAN 

on 19 July 2023, is a specialist in fish and crustacean eDNA, used to determine the marine biodiversity of a site. 

Photo OceanoScientific

David Mouillot continues: "Beyond abundance, this will permit major advances to be made in terms of genetic and population connectivity. All these elements are crucial for stock management. Of course, at the moment, we are more focused on conservation and biogeography. But the new generation of environmental DNA studies will contribute to a better understanding of fisheries resources, and therefore to a better fisheries management. This will be true both in the delimitation of reserves and in the identification of new stocks at depths that were previously unknown or under-exploited. We could even consider, why not, establishing corridors of large-scale connectivity between different fish stocks. We really hope to have a highly relevant decision-making tool at our disposal in the short to medium term. It will be an essential added-value for the preservation of marine biodiversity."


"I would like to make it clear that the Mediterranean Sea, which I love more and more, is not the terribly polluted sea with more plastic than fish that some people decry. The more we study it, the more we discover hidden treasures. I am one of the optimists, one of those who believe that in twenty years' time we will be leaving future generations a cleaner sea, with more fish and a more diverse biodiversity than we have today, thanks in particular to the protection efforts put in place by the public authorities and local associations and, above all, thanks to better management of fishing and the rational exploitation of resources. That is why I believe more than ever in Science as a practical tool for Humanity...".


To carry out the OceanoScientific eDNA Mediterranean Expeditions, the Vanguard-Suzuki RIB was fitted with a unique equipment designed by Yvan Griboval to guarantee identical sampling quality in all conditions, for the best possible use of the samples collected. Photo OceanoScientific

Mercredi 24 avril 2024

Wednesday 17 April 2024

Sponges at the service of Humanity

In our Newsletter from the 10 April, we talked about France's immense coral reef heritage, covering 58,000 square kilometers and scattered across the tropical strip of the three oceans: the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic, not forgetting the Mediterranean and the Caribbean Seas. We have also shown that this fantastic national wealth is not being exploited as it should logically be, particularly for the benefit of French youth and local entrepreneurs. We also explained that today these biological resources are exploited by foreign manufacturers (Blasiak and al., 2018), without the sites of origin of the marine organisms that generate the molecules of interest for use in Health, Well-being and Environmental Services benefiting from the slightest euro made by these operators under foreign flags. We are at the initiative of the Ressources FRAnçaises CORalliennes - REFRACOR 2030 project (French Corallian Resources), the fruit of more than three years' work. We are presenting a simple and effective approach to NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY that combines: virtuous exploitation, preservation of biodiversity and real sharing of benefits. Everything that the Nagoya Protocol is supposed to implement, without any success. At least not in France. Explanation to follow...


Thanks to genetics, without killing or harming the sponges that appeared on Earth 650 million or even 750 million years ago, it will be possible to extract precious molecules of interest for the benefit of Humanity: Health, Well-being and Environmental Services. Photo Thierry Pérez, Research Director CNRS IMBE - Endoume Marine Station (Marseille - France)

Designer of the REFRACOR 2030 project, Yvan Griboval explains: "When I returned from the OceanoScientific Around the World Expedition 2026-2017, which was the first campaign to collect scientific data at the Air-Sea interface - under sail and single-handed - in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current under the three great continental capes, I was sharing my experience at conferences or in front of primary school pupils (CM1-CM2) and I realized that talking about the data collected, which had no commercial value, did absolutely nothing to engage my listeners. It didn't encourage them to preserve the Ocean. So I was completely missing the mark. Simply because in general what has no value: commercial, emotional, personal..., does not justify being respected or preserved. Because it's worthless. Why the hell had I gone so far, at the risk of my life, to collect this physico-chemical data, although of high quality, in which only a small group of scientists had any interest. A small interest, since they didn't spend any money to obtain it..."


"Thus, I researched to find out what could be so valuable in the Ocean that it would generate enough interest among the general public to make them want to protect it. Because my approach was, and remains, to mobilize human beings to preserve the sea and its biodiversity. Without going very far, the scientific literature is abundant, so I read up on coral reefs. There is no doubt that the organisms that nestle there conceal almost infinite resources for uses that benefit Humanity. All the scientists consulted, including, in priority, Denis Allemand, Scientific Director of the Monaco Scientific Centre, renowned for studying and breeding corals since the late 80s, confirmed the rightness of this choice."


"It was still necessary to decide to focus on a particular marine organism, given the immense wealth of biodiversity found in these coral reef sites. Scientists agree that they contain around 25% of the marine organisms in the Ocean, which itself represents 71% of the Planet. The first instinct is to take an interest in coral. Until, on 10 February 2022, a conversation in Brest on the sidelines of the One Ocean Summit with the eminent biologist Gilles Bœuf - with whom I had first spoken in his office when he was President of the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle - turned me definitively towards sponges: "Extraordinary animals that deserve to be studied because they can make a huge contribution to human beings", according to Gilles. Then a meeting with Thierry Pérez, Research Director of CNRS IMBE at the Endoume Marine Station (Marseille - France) and surely the greatest French spongiologist working today, himself a disciple of Jean Vacelet, convinced me to concentrate the efforts of the OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Expeditions and the REFRACOR 2030 Project on the theme of sponges."


"But as I investigated the subject further, I discovered that to extract these precious molecules, these active ingredients for human health, it was necessary to have access to immense quantities of living organisms. The proof of this was the discovery in 1969 by Professor Kenneth L. Rinehart (1929-2005) of the University of Illinois (USA) that an extract of an ascidian (Ecteinascidia tubinata) from the Caribbean Sea contained active anti-cancer molecules (Ecteinascidin 743). This molecule was purified in 1984 at the University of Illinois. But its possible use as an anti-cancer agent was not published until 1996 by Professor Elias James Corey, a chemist at Harvard University (USA) and winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The patent for this molecule, now marketed by the Spanish company PharmaMar, was filed by Harvard. But let's get back to basics: it was necessary to kill a ton of ascidians to obtain one gram of active ingredient. A clinical trial requires at least five grams!"


"In short, I was astonished to discover that highlighting the molecular richness of marine organisms in coral reefs could only encourage the plundering and destruction of these precious reefs, and the impoverishment of their fantastic biodiversity. Quite the opposite of my initial approach!"


"So many sleepless nights going over this paradox... Until I met Professor Christian Siatka, a geneticist who has since become Vice-President of the OceanoScientific association and Scientific Director of the OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Expeditions. "If I take a hair or a piece of fingernail from you, I won't hurt you and I will get your DNA" he explained quite simply. "And if you do the same with tiny pieces of sponge, you will get their DNA. It will be possible to search for molecules of interest using bioinformatic without needing to kill or hurt the sponge, or even go back and disturb it on its reef."


"Under these conditions, it became possible to enhance France's reef heritage by focusing on sponges, reputed for their exceptional properties. Above all, it was also possible to preserve the precious genetic data of marine organisms threatened by the Sixth Extinction, itself accelerating as a result of climate change. This is how the foundations of the REFRACOR 2030 project were laid."


Today, French coral reefs are a (magical!) natural spectacle for tourists and a field of exploration for fundamental scientific research. They are also an infinite reserve of molecules of interest for the use of human beings. A national heritage worth preserving. Photo Thierry Pérez, Research Director CNRS IMBE - Endoume Marine Station (Marseille - France)

We have identified three main objectives for the REFRACOR 2030 project:                     


First objective: To preserve the fantastic heritage of the French Corallian Resources of the: Mediterranean Sea - Atlantic Ocean / Caribbean Sea - Indian Ocean - Pacific Ocean and to enable their virtuous use thanks to (digital) genetic processing that neither kills nor harms marine organisms. 


Second objective: To guarantee the territory of origin of the samples taken a significant profit generated by the exploitation of Industrial Property rights - including the filing of patents for enhanced protection - relating to the use of molecules of interest derived from marine organisms. To achieve this, we need to establish perfect traceability of the samples, and then of the digital data derived from them. Blockchain enables us to do this.


Third objective: To enable the creation of new jobs in the Blue Economy through the (digital) genetic processing of French coral resources for the benefit of secondary school pupils and young students up to Bachelor, with priority given to those from the sites where the samples of marine organisms are taken. For example, giving priority to training young Guadeloupeans in genetics applied to marine organisms in the Guadeloupe National Park, in collaboration with local educational establishments. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will help to build a bridge between the work of students on the one hand and the French world of start-ups and the industries concerned on the other. 


In the medium term, the aim is to finalize the text of a regulatory framework applicable to ALL French coral resources and to present it to the international community as a founding document for future international regulations to reinforce the Nagoya Protocol, in order to preserve both living organisms and the (digital) genetic data derived from them. A major innovation!


In the longer term, the aim is to help finance the creation of Marine Protected Areas and National Nature Reserves by offsetting the reduction in revenue from tourism on coral reefs - which threatens their biodiversity - with financial profits guaranteed by the exploitation of Industrial Property rights relating to the use of molecules of interest derived from marine organisms on the sites concerned.

PURPOSE OF THE REFRACOR 2030 PROJECT                         


In summary, the aim of the REFRACOR 2030 national sovereignty project is to : Effectively protect and virtuously valorize the heritage of France's fantastic underwater resources; Create sectors of excellence for young people in long-term collaboration with our Overseas Territories; Develop the Blue Economy of Health, Well-being and Environmental Services in line with the Objective 7 of France 2030: "Produce at least 20 biomedicines in France, in particular against cancers, rare diseases and chronic diseases, including those linked to age".


From now on, we are carrying out the test phase of the REFRACOR 2030 Project as part of the OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Expeditions, sailing in total autonomy without CO2 emission with our Lagoon 570 LOVE THE OCEAN, fully equipped as an oceanographic research platform, thanks to the support of our partners and patrons, as well as manufacturers who have understood the benefits of exploiting coral reef resources in a virtuous way to preserve biodiversity. It is an approach that is in the interests of the people living on the coral reef sites concerned, who will be the first guardians of this national treasure!


At the same time, we are presenting to the French government a draft convention to preserve our national reef heritage. We hope that it will be taken up by all the countries meeting within the United Nations. The timing is perfect: their representatives will be in Nice from 5 to 15 June 2025 at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron as part of the third UN Ocean Conference - UNOC Nice 25...

Mercredi 17 avril 2024

Wednesday 10 April 2024

In the country where the sun never sets...

France is present in the tropical band of the three oceans: Pacific, Indian and Atlantic. Not to mention the Mediterranean and the Caribbean Seas. Thus, it is fair to say that the sun never sets on our country. It has the second largest maritime area in the world (Exclusive Economic Zone - EEZ) with 11,035,000 km², not far behind the United States (11,351,000 km²) and well ahead of Australia (8,505,348 km²). Above all, France has the world's largest submarine domain (11,614,000 km²), a heritage that is both undervalued and priceless. Particularly, it is an unexploited heritage! Or, at the very least, its biological resources are being exploited by foreign industrialists. Find out more below...


This map of France and its overseas departments and regions as well as its overseas collectivities - DROM-COM

previously known as DOM-TOM - shows that the sun always shines somewhere on its territory. It is therefore fair

to say that "France is the country where the sun never sets". Superbenjamin map from BlankMap World

According to the French Ministry for Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion in 2021: "France has 58,000 km² of coral reefs and their lagoons, or nearly 10% of the world's reefs, behind Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines".


Of these four countries, it is probably France that has the greatest scientific research power in the study of coral reefs and their biodiversity in all its forms. This leadership has been achieved thanks to the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle (MNHN), the Institut Français de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) and the Institut Français de Recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer (Ifremer), just to mention the four emblematic institutes that are the pride of our country. Added to these are the numerous Joint Research Units (UMR) attached to faculties staffed by professors with an international reputation for the quality of their work.


That is why the French publish so many valuable scientific studies. Treasures that fall into the public domain as soon as they are published. Or how to squander France's reef heritage for the benefit of major foreign industrial centers. A study by the University of Stockholm highlighted this in June 2018, based on the work of five researchers, including the Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Jouffray: Corporate control and global governance of marine genetic resources - 06 June 2018 - Robert Blasiak, Jean-Baptiste Jouffray, Colette C. C. Wabnitz, Emma Sundstrom, Henrik Österblom.


According to this study, the Big Six chemical companies: BASF, Bayer, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta held a total of 84% of patents relating to genetic resources derived from marine organisms at the end of 2017. The German-based company BASF, the world's leading chemical company, alone held 47%, many of which related to coral organisms. However, Germany has no tropical coral reef. Unless we have missed it… But Germany, like most nations, also benefits from the sacrosanct free sharing of data between scientific institutes. Including, of course, the results of France's highly successful fundamental research on organisms taken from our coral reef heritage!


As a result, foreign manufacturers have access to France's fantastic reef resources without having to untie their purse strings, without contributing to French school and university education, without encouraging the development of biotech start-ups, and without financing French healthtech. Their manufactured products derived from France's reef resources can therefore threaten our industrial sovereignty in high value-added sectors, without breaking any laws or risking a single penalty. Admittedly, they would be wrong to deprive themselves, let's not blame them.


No international or even French regulations currently exist to effectively protect the genetic resources (digital data) of living organisms, terrestrial or marine.


Take a close look at these superb marine organisms photographed on the coral reefs of the Guadeloupe

National Park (France). As well as their exceptional colours, they probably contain molecules of interest for Health purposes. Photo Claude Lefebvre with kind permission of Guadeloupe National Park

Some, and there are many, will argue that the Nagoya Protocol - adopted in 2010 and which came into force in France on 12 October 2014 - protects living organisms and provides for the "sharing of benefits" potentially acquired. This was probably the wishful thinking of its creators. It has not turned out to be the case.


It has to be said that this text, which is administratively restrictive, does not protect genetic data (digital data derived from living organisms) for a number of reasons. It is almost exclusively researchers from state institutes who collect living matter for fundamental scientific studies. But it is private companies with no connection to them that make commercial use of it several years or decades later, thanks to scientific publications that have fallen into the public domain. Yet, the researchers are not linked in any way to the industrialists at the end of the chain. This is because there is no traceability between the sample taken from the (French) coral reef and the molecule of interest derived from it for commercial use. 


Indeed, authorizations to collect samples of living organisms do not impose a formal commitment to return part of the benefits acquired until the commercial use has been precisely identified. In the best-case scenario, this commercial use can sometimes only be confirmed ten to fifteen years after the collection of the living sample: Five to seven years of fundamental studies and publication; at least five years, if not ten more, of applied research; then three years of efforts to bring the product to market. Thus, we are used to comparing the Nagoya Protocol to a tennis racket without strings. It is not ideal for playing on equal terms with our industrial counterparts...


The patents filed do not concern the genetic data itself, because living matter is inalienable. It belongs indefinitely to Nature. Only its use is patentable. However, all it takes for an industrialist, like the chemical giants, is to have a pool of lawyers specialized in the protection of industrial property, to patent a simple function of the molecule in question, with the aim of preventing anyone else from studying its other properties. It's a clever way of "locking up" the molecule for his own benefit, without breaking any laws. Deterrent!


Until now, research into molecules of interest derived from marine organisms, including an in-depth study of their safety and ability to treat a given disease, has been long and tedious. And extremely costly! Now, the contribution of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is opening up horizons that seemed unattainable just two or three years ago. As a result, France's extraordinary, fantastic and priceless reef heritage is proving to be an unsuspected source of wealth, a vector for the development of emerging professions in the Blue Economy. Provided we don't fall asleep under the soporific illusion of applying the Nagoya Protocol, which is a bulwark for young people and the French economy as "effective" as the 108 publications and 750 kilometers of the Maginot Line were in the spring of 1940.


Fortunately, we have an effective solution to propose to ensure that France makes virtuous use of its innumerable coral reef resources, by ensuring that each territory of origin of the samples of marine organisms studied is contractually guaranteed to effectively benefit from the advantages acquired, even long after the samples have been collected. Not just the pipe dreams of the Nagoya Protocol! To achieve this, we are implementing an inviolable protection of the knowledge accumulated for the benefit of France and young French women and men, because it is their Future that is at stake. This is the Ressources FRAnçaises CORalliennes Project - REFRACOR 2030. Find out more on Wednesday 17 April in the weekly newsletter titled: Sponges at the service of humanity...

Photo_03-PNG-Ilet Fajou-Photo_Celine_Lesponne-Lt.jpg

Fajou islet is a small uninhabited island in the heart of the Grand Cul-de-sac marin in the Guadeloupe National Park (France). Surrounded by coral reefs, it is almost entirely covered by mangrove swamps and only emerges a few meters from the sea. Photo by Céline Lesponne with kind permission of Guadeloupe National Park

Mercredi 10 avril 2024

Wednesday 3 April 2024

Kerkennah, sentinel of the Mediterranean Sea

In mid-April, the Lagoon 570 catamaran LOVE THE OCEAN will set sail for Tunisia, and more specifically for the archipelago of the Kerkennah Islands, located opposite the port of Sfax to the north of the Gulf of Gabes, to lead the OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Tunisia Expedition 2024, before heading for Bizerte to carry out joint actions with La Saison Bleue foundation, chaired by Rym Benzina Bourguiba, who is also the godmother of LOVE THE OCEAN. Kerkennah, historic site for the sponge trade, is also witness to the consequences of climate change affecting the Mediterranean. It is a sentinel of the evolution of biodiversity, as well as of the rise of the sea level, which impacts the quality of arable land and, consequently, land resources, sources of food for coastal populations.

This image of sponges is what we would like to discover during the OceanoScientific Expedition Coral Reefs Tunisia 2024 in the second half of April. But the reality of the Kerkennah seabed may be quite different... 


As Soumaya Hmila recalled in her article published on the Blue Tunisia website and titled "Submerged treasures of Kerkennah: The decline of marine sponges": "Marine sponges, colloquially known as "Nchef" in the Sfax region, embody the very essence of Tunisian identity. Tunisia was indeed one of the world's pioneers in the export of this product. Kerkennah stood out as one of the main producers on a national scale. However, this maritime jewel, once so abundant, has almost disappeared today for a variety of reasons. Pollution, overexploitation, illegal fishing and the ravages of climate change have all depleted sponge stocks in Kerkennah, showing the fragility of this marine heritage that was once a source of national pride"


"Despite their structural simplicity, these organisms play a crucial role in the balance of marine ecosystems. Acting as filters, sponges can purify the equivalent of their own volume of water in a matter of seconds, helping to purify their aquatic environment by retaining fine organic particles"


"An integral part of Tunisian heritage since the year 202 AD, the commercialization of sponges has carved out whole swathes of the country's history, generating jobs and prosperity for fishing communities".


This is confirmed by Mohamed Hamdane on the Culture & Patrimoine de Tunisie website: "Sponges were collected according to the nationality of the fishermen: either with a scuba diving suit for the Greeks, who specialized in this type of diving; or with a trident for the Tunisians and Italians (Sicilians); or with a system of nets dragged over the seabed and called "Gangave". Despite this, fishing was intensive, and by the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, the sponge beds were showing signs of impoverishment. In an attempt to find solutions to this problem, several researchers published studies, the most notable of which was the one by Jean Servonnet and Fernand Lafitte in 1888". All was in vain: overfishing of Tunisian sponges continued unabated...


"Nevertheless, in Sfax, traders and fishermen were concerned about this situation. Thus, in 1903, the Tunisian government decided to set up a small laboratory on stilts off the port of Sfax to analyze the conditions under which sponges reproduce and grow. It was run for three years by Raphaël Dubois (1849-1929), a pharmacist, doctor and professor at the Faculty of Science in Lyon, who was assisted on site by Antoine Allemand, known as Allemand-Martin (1876-1948)". As Professor Karim Ben Mustapha (Institut National des Sciences et Technologies de la Mer - INSTM) reminds us: "This in situ marine biology laboratory in Tunisia in 1903 was the first in Africa and the Arabic world to study sponges and sponge farming".  

Photo_02-Sfax-Laboratoire_biologie_marine-1905-Photo_ Antoine_Allemand.jpg

About a nautical mile off the port of Sfax (Tunisia), the laboratory on stilts of the Professors Raphaël Dubois and Antoine Allemand was probably in 1903 the first in Africa and in the Arabic world to study sponges and sponge farming. Archive photo Antoine Allemand provided by Karim Ben Mustapha (INSTM)

Paul Gourret (1859-1903), who was in 1893 Deputy Director of the Station Biologique d'Endoume (Marseille - France) - from which the famous French spongiologists Jean Vacelet and Thierry Pérez also came - worked alongside Professor Allemand-Martin, who said of this unique laboratory: "It is not a laboratory open to people who intend to study the various branches of marine biology, and even less a pedagogic or biological teaching laboratory. It is located 1,500 meters off the port of Sfax. This location was chosen to ensure that the waters are always clear and free from the fouling of the coastline. It is a wooden house built on stilts, measuring nine by five meters, rising out of the sea like an islet. Its keeper is a Kerkennian. He is one of the best free divers in the area and he is very good at looking after the crops underwater and keeping an eye on them"


"In 1906, Antoine Allemand-Martin published the results of his work, which finally gave a better understanding of the life of sponges and how they are grown. His recommendation was, once again at that time, to protect the Posidonia meadows and shoals, particularly in the Gulf of Gabes, to the north of which lies the archipelago of the Kerkennah Islands".


Even if the Tunisians exploited their own sponges, the impact of Greek and, above all, Sicilian fishermen on the sponge resources of Tunisia's coral reefs should not be underestimated. As is often the case, the plundering of the maritime heritage of the southern shore of the Mediterranean by the northern shore made the northerners rich.


Alfonso Campisi wrote in the columns of La Presse magazine in February 2021, referring to the history of the exploitation of sponges: "It is difficult to establish with certainty when the adventure of the sponge trade in the Mediterranean began. One thing is certain, their use dates back more than 2,700 years. The poet Homer (8th century BC) described Penelope using sponges to wash her dishes. And legend has it that Hephaestus, Greek god of fire and master of the arts of forging and metalworking, used them to clean his glorious creations. In the mid-twentieth century, after the Second World War, the towns of Trapani in Sicily and Sfax in Tunisia were linked by a major economic activity based on coral and sponges fishing".


"The season of sponge fishing, or "sponsi" in Sicilian, took place between February and November. Until 1956-1957, a fleet of more than sixty small boats was used for sponge fishing. An expedition from the Sicilian coast could last three months. Sailing from Trapani to the African coast took just over a day. The sponge fishermen who made up the crew almost always belonged to the same family. Fishing always began with the rite of prayer. The fishermen invoked God and all the patron saints before even leaving the harbour!"


"The presence of Trapani fishermen in Sfax and the Gulf of Gabes was also certified in 1869 in the Scientific and industrial directory, which described corals and sponges fishing on the Tunisian coast as an "Italian fishery" (!) that employed around 7,000 Sicilian and Tunisian sailors during the summer season"


"It was difficult to collect sponges underwater by freediving, knowing that the most beautiful were also the deepest. Oral stories, passed down from one generation to the next, attribute extraordinary abilities to the first sponge divers. According to ancient texts, they would descend naked to a depth of nearly sixty meters for more than five minutes to collect the precious creatures. Those who succeeded in this feat became true heroes. When they returned to their home villages, they would boast about their exploits and the fact that they had survived the terrible storms, waves and harsh living conditions on board".


STEPMA Éponges (Société Tunisienne d'Exportation des Produits Maritimes et Agricole) is specialized in processing

and exporting natural sponges from the Mediterranean Sea since its takeover in 1963 of the company Colettis Frères,

 founded in 1946. Sorting sponges, here in the early 1960s, was an important phase in their exploitation.

Archive photo STEPMA Éponges

Although sponge resources declined sharply throughout the twentieth century, particularly from the 1960s onwards, several initiatives have been undertaken to ensure that sponges reappear on the reefs of the Gulf of Gabes.


However, Kerkennah is also under another threat, as Lucile Étienne (Université Paris Diderot) explained in her thesis in 2014: "Recent increase in vulnerability linked to coastline mobility and soil salinization in the Kerkennah archipelago".


Indeed, Lucile Étienne explains that "the Kerkennah archipelago is made up of small islands and islets with a maximum altitude of just thirteen meters. The transition between land and sea is usually very gentle. This means that vast areas are affected by high salinity. The lowest areas, where the water table is sometimes outcropping, are made up of "sebkhas" which are salty soils specific to semi-arid environments. In Kerkennah, these sebkhas account for 45% of the surface area of the islands. They are known as coastal sebkhas because they are linked to the sea by an outlet. Water exchanges between land and sea are therefore normal, and the sebkhas can be flooded in winter and then dry in summer". Lucile Étienne's thesis therefore focused on: "The salinity of agricultural soils near the coast and the associated problems".


"These issues are particularly important", she insists, "because of three factors affecting the archipelago: rising sea level; the climate's shift towards aridity; changes in farming practices".


"The Gulf of Gabes has been experiencing a particularly significant rise in sea level, at least since the 1950s (Saidani, 2007). As a result, the coastline is retreating, leading to the loss of potentially arable land, and salinization of the groundwater used for irrigation".


"The climate has been moving towards aridity since the 1970s, with higher temperatures and longer summer periods, leading to more intense evaporation and evapotranspiration. The result is a greater water stress (Dahech, 2012)".


"The evolution of these natural factors implies stress on vegetation, since plants need more water and the water available is increasingly salty. In addition, it has led to the sebkhas in the archipelago expanding, sometimes significantly. Between 1963 and 2010, they have grown by an average of 18% of their original surface area (Étienne, 2014)".


"Associated with the droughts of the 1960s and 1980s (Hénia, in Arnould and Hotyat, 2003), cultivation practices have changed since the 1960s with the conversion of palm grove plots to olive groves, until the installation of irrigated and drained perimeters at the Melitta and Ramla sites in 1995. Yet, the water used for irrigation comes from two deep brackish water wells. This brackish water is used in the drained areas but is also sold illegally outside them. This situation has a significant impact on soil quality. Frequent droughts and the installation of drained areas have unfortunately led to the gradual abandonment of traditional farming practices".


"The spatial extension of salinity is associated with the natural phenomenon of the spatial extension of sebkhas. But this is increased tenfold by anthropogenic causes: from the abandonment of ancient practices that guaranteed a natural balance, to the poor management of irrigation water".


More than ever, this situation, a result of Human’s impact on Nature, is worrying, but not irreversible. The combined efforts of scientists, in particular those at the Institut National des Sciences et Technologies de la Mer - INSTM, and associations for the protection of the marine environment, such as La Saison Bleue, are succeeding in mobilizing the public authorities, without whom, in Tunisia as in France, no sustainable policy for the regeneration of sensitive natural areas would be possible.

Mercredi 3 avril 2024

Wednesday 27 March 2024

OceanoScientific Expedition Coral Reefs Tunisia 2024

In mid-April, the Lagoon 570 catamaran LOVE THE OCEAN, moored at the Pontoon K of the Pôle Nautisme Mer & Développement (Nautismed) in Port Saint Louis du Rhône, will set sail for the South-East of the western Mediterranean for a short OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Tunisia Expedition 2024 in the Kerkennah Islands archipelago, near the coastal town of Sfax, then on to Bizerte, before heading to Marseille. This will be an opportunity to carry out joint initiatives with the foundation La Saison Bleue, chaired by Rym Benzina Bourguiba, who is also Patron, along with Theresa Zabell (Spain), of LOVE THE OCEAN. The choice of the Kerkennah - an important bird conservation sanctuary - was dictated by the fact that it is renowned for its historical importance in the production of commercial sponges. Nearly 150 species of sponge have been identified in Tunisia, five of which are commercialized. Sponge fishing on this site is thought to date back to 202 AD. Fishing was carried out on foot or by snorkeling in waters often less than three meters deep. But the resource has declined drastically due to overfishing, pollution and rising sea water temperatures. The aim is to recreate the right conditions for the sponge resource to develop once again... 

This navigation of around 1,300 nautical miles (2,400 km) at sea will be an opportunity to carry out a phase of offshore navigation tests on the OCEANO VOX box, designed and developed by Antoine Cousot as part of the "Citizen into Science" project supported by the PURE OCEAN Foundation in collaboration with Ifremer, on the initiative of Lucie Cocquempot.


Journey of the OceanoScientific Expedition Coral Reefs Tunisia 2024 from Port Saint Louis du Rhône to the Kerkennah archipelago, then Bizerte (Tunisia), returning to France in Marseille. map

La Saison Bleue, created in 2018, is dedicated to: promoting the Tunisian coastline and its many activities and resources; actions to protect and increase knowledge of the coasts and marine ecosystems, as well as supporting initiatives by coastal communities and maritime stakeholders. It is also the organiser of the Forum Mondial de la Mer-Bizerte, chaired by Pascal Lamy. Tunisia is three thousand years of maritime civilization since the Phoenicians established one of their many trading posts here around a thousand years BC. Nearly eight million Tunisians live along a 1,300-kilometre coastline, or 2,300 kilometers if you add islands and lagoons.


A few facts about sponges, as they are more commonly known, thanks to a summary of publications by French researchers Eva Ternon and Olivier P. Thomas made on the Planet Vie website.


Sponges are non-mobile marine animals that live attached to the sediment. They are therefore benthic animals. They are found throughout the world's seas and oceans. Although they are particularly present and studied in tropical oceans, they also thrive in temperate zones, from shallow depths to over 2,000 meters. They are also found in fresh and brackish waters.


The oldest marine sponge fossils found date back more than 760 million years, indicating that sponges survived the great Cambrian and Cretaceous extinctions, periods of glaciation and other major climatic variations.


How did such seemingly vulnerable animals survive the ages? The answer lies in the chemistry of these exceptional marine organisms. Over the course of their long evolution, sponges have developed an arsenal of organic compounds in their tissues, known as 'specialized metabolites', which are more or less toxic. We now know that these metabolites are used by sponges to fight infection and/or the invasion of bacteria and fungi into their tissues.


This chemical shield also allows the sponge to signal its presence for its own protection. Marine sponges are subject to several dangers because of their immobility. They can't escape predators; they can't stop invading organisms and they have to fight to maintain and conquer a vital space. 


During their lifetime, encrusting sponges - which form a sort of film on the substrate on which they settle - tend in particular to spread out over the substrate to which they are attached. They discourage other organisms from attaching themselves to the same substrate by signaling their presence with their toxic compounds.


The mechanisms behind the biosynthesis of these metabolites are still poorly understood. However, it would appear that the sponge's symbiont bacteria play an active role. As a result, each species of sponge has developed its own formidable "medicine cabinet". To date, more than 6,500 specialized metabolites have been defined in the 8,000 species of sponge that have been identified.


Over the last fifty years, this marine "medicine cabinet" has been extensively studied for human health applications. This science of marine natural products has led to the discovery of many original and complex molecules of interest, never before encountered in terrestrial fauna and flora. Most of these bioactive molecules are being tested against human diseases to determine their potential effectiveness as medicines. But they can also be used for well-being (Dermatology - Cosmetology - Nutrition) and environmental services (Agriculture - Aquaculture - Depollution).


Three compounds derived from marine sponges have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. They are marketed as anti-cancer (breast cancer and leukaemia) and anti-viral (herpes) drugs in the United States and a number of European countries, including France. Some fifteen other candidate molecules derived from sponges are currently undergoing clinical trials. And scientists agree that there are countless molecules of interest in sponges...


Small and easy to install, the OCEANO VOX is positioned in front of the chart table on the Lagoon 570 LOVE THE OCEAN.

It communicates with land via a constellation of nanosatellites. Its purpose is to equip pleasure boats (sail & power) to offer an innovative service to owners and insurance companies to improve safety at sea. Photo OceanoScientific

OCEANO VOX is a disruptive solution, conceived by Antoine Cousot, for acquiring data at sea to give all pleasure boats the chance to get involved in improving safety at sea and gaining a better understanding of the Ocean. The aim is to automatically collect scientific data on board ships, including sailing boats, which is essential for perfecting weather forecasts by automatically transmitting it to land via the Kinéis network of nanosatellites. This tool will also be useful to insurance companies to reduce the risks arising from extreme weather phenomena (cyclones) and exceptional events.


This "Citizen into Science" project led by Lucie Cocquempot (Ifremer) won the PURE OCEAN Foundation's 2023 Call for Projects. As a result, the first set of matchbox sized OCEANO VOX tags will be deployed in the Arctic during the summer of 2024 by a volunteer fleet of ocean-going sailing boats. The weather data collected will be made available to Ifremer, the project's scientific partner.

Mercredi 27 mars

Wednesday 20 March 2024

Priority to raising awareness among the young people

Since its creation, on 7 January 2011, the philanthropic association of general interest OceanoScientific has made it a priority to raise awareness among the pupils of CM1-CM2 classes in the primary schools of its preferred locations: from Monaco to Port Saint Louis du Rhône, the technical base of the Lagoon 570 catamaran LOVE THE OCEAN, currently moored at Pontoon K of the Pôle Nautisme Mer & Développement (Nautismed). Thus, Tuesday 19 March was an opportunity for Yvan Griboval, President of OceanoScientific and Navigator-Explorer, Clara Bayol, Biological Engineer and Cécile d’Estais, General Delegate of the association, to meet the pupils from the three primary schools of the municipality of Port Saint Louis du Rhône: Paul Éluard, Jules Verne and Romain Rolland. Many of the children in each class frequently go to sea with their families, either to fish or to go sailing from this commune between the Mediterranean Sea, the Gulf of Fos and the Rhône, at the entrance of the Camargue. These budding sailors’ vocations are encouraged by the initiative of the Mayor, Martial Alvarez, who has instituted a full week of sailing lessons for each CM1-CM2 class at the Municipal nautical base of Port Saint Louis du Rhône, located in the Carteau district. The speeches to raise awareness of the need to preserve their natural environment were addressed to attentive ears. The message will undoubtedly flourish in their family circle.  


Enthusiastic pupils in Adeline Bosc's CM1-CM2 class at the Paul Éluard primary school

in Port Saint Louis du Rhône. Photo OceanoScientific


Raising awareness among CM1-CM2 pupils in Aude-Emmanuelle Navarro-Pages' class at the Jules Verne primary school in Port Saint Louis du Rhône. Photo OceanoScientific


Meeting with the pupils from Cindelle Logeais Toubi's CM1-CM2 class at the Romain Rolland primary school

in Port Saint Louis du Rhône. Photo OceanoScientific

Mercredi 20 mars

Wednesday 16 March 2024

Mercredi 13 mars 2024

False start... and a program to rebuild

After a long three-week wait for a favourable weather window, the Lagoon 570 catamaran LOVE THE OCEAN left our technical base in Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône, where it was moored at the Pontoon K of the Pôle Nautisme Mer & Développement (Nautismed), mid-morning on Tuesday 12 March. The day before, all the supplies - 90% of them Lyophilisé & Co products, without which we don't plan to leave the port! - had been distributed among the lockers and cupboards which are numerous on the Lagoon catamarans. Last to arrive, the products of our partner Conserverie La Belle-Iloise, which come from responsible fishing and have been brightening up our meals on land and at sea for several decades, were also stored on board.

Finally, we could savour the joy of entering the Golfe du Lion with a 25 to 30 knot Tramontane on the beam. LOVE THE OCEAN was making between 9 and 10 knots under two reefs and staysail on a reasonably rough sea. However, at the first cargo crossing, it turned out that the AIS positioning system was inoperative. The AIS (Automatic Identification System) makes it possible to identify passing ships, their type, course and speed, and to be identified oneself in the same way. This tool is designed to avoid collisions. It is essential when sailing in the Mediterranean, especially when approaching and then passing through the Straits of Gibraltar. Consequence: Back at Nautismed's Pontoon K on Wednesday 13 March at 7.15 AM, where Nicolas Escande (AD Nautic Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône) got the AIS transmitting/receiving system up and running again within a few minutes. The problem was caused by a partially disconnected wire. The electrician/electronics specialist identified the problem and reconnected the cable in less time than it takes to explain. But the sailor didn't know how to solve it in the jungle of intertwined cables running behind the front of the chart table. The weather window has now closed. It is therefore necessary to rebuild a program by closely observing the weather forecasts...

Bright sunshine, a 25-30 knot Tramontane and reasonably rough sea: LOVE THE OCEAN is crossing the Gulf of Lion at 9-10 knots. This Lagoon 570 catamaran is particularly at ease in these choppy conditions. Photo OceanoScientific

Joy of having completed the final preparations for departure on the OceanoScientific Expedition, from left to right:

Yvan Griboval (Skipper); Cécile d'Estais (OceanoScientific General Delegate - Coordinator of supplies for the OceanoScientific Expeditions and optimization of life on board); Clara Bayol (Biological engineer); Helena Nyhlén (former owner of the Lagoon 570 DRAGOON, now LOVE THE OCEAN). Selfie OceanoScientific 

Exiting the channel of Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône on Tuesday 12 March: Yvan Griboval (Skipper) at the helm, Clara Bayol (Biology engineer) on the cabin roof and the former Swedish owner of the Lagoon 570, Helena Nyhlén, behind the EXSYMOL Monaco banner. Photo OceanoScientific

Mercredi 6 mars 2024

Wednesday 6 March 2024

At the whim of Eole…

Waiting for a favourable weather window, the Lagoon 570 catamaran LOVE THE OCEAN is still moored at our technical base in Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône, under the gusts of the Mistral at Pontoon K of the Pôle Nautisme Mer & Développement (Nautismed). With the invaluable assistance of Christian Dumard, our router for the OceanoScientific Around the World Expedition 2016-2017, we are constantly studying the weather models: the American GFS, the European ECMWF and, of course, the French Arome. And we are doing a lot of routing on TZ Navigator, installed on the LOVE THE OCEAN's computer and on our iPad by our partner ROM-arrangé. The objective isn't complicated: to avoid setting off into the gusts of an overly violent Mistral or Tramontane in the Gulf of Lion, then to avoid opposing a strong South-Westly to sail along the Spanish coast, into the Alboran Sea - the most westerly part of the Mediterranean basin, between the Maghreb (Algeria - Morocco) and Spain - then to enter the Straits of Gibraltar with a light downwind or headwind. We have been looking for a favourable window for three weeks now... and we are still waiting. Hopefully, as the lows running from West to East across the Atlantic are tending to rise as the famous Azores High develops, and the situation should allow us to set sail shortly. Finally!


Under the gusts of Mistral, the OceanoScientific flag flies proudly on the Lagoon 570 catamaran 

LOVE THE OCEAN at Pontoon K in Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône. Photo OceanoScientific

"The succession of very strong Atlantic lows that affected the weather situation in the Mediterranean during February is exceptional, but we have already experienced it during the winter of 2020-2021, for example", explains Christian Dumard. One might be tempted to deduce that this is a marker of climate disruption. Christian Dumard moderates: "We need to separate Meteorology and Climatology. While Meteorology allows us to make forecasts and observe low-pressure and anticyclonic phenomena, Climatology is a long-term process. It is only in at least ten years' time, by studying meteorological trends over a long period using identical observation tools, that we will be able to attribute the exceptional phenomena we are experiencing - admittedly more and more frequently - to climate disruption. With little hindsight, it is impossible to draw reliable conclusions."


Christian Dumard, a router renowned for having contributed to the success of numerous solo and crewed ocean racers around the world, weather advisor for the Vendée Globe and numerous ocean races, is also the co-founder with Basile Rochut of the young company Marine Weather Intelligence, which multiplies tenfold the combined effectiveness of Christian Dumard's exceptional experience and the tools offered by Artificial Intelligence. As a result, it is no longer just a question of providing assistance to ocean racers in competition, exploration or pleasure boating. The aim is now to carry out weather analyses and maritime routing for the transport of high-risk goods that require specific sailing conditions. The objective is as well to help reduce the environmental impact of commercial shipping and superyachts. The aim is to encourage a reduction in CO2 emissions by choosing shipping routes with favourable winds and currents. This will avoid forcing the ship to push its engines and increase its toxic gas emissions to cope with contrary winds and currents. A longer route on the map may turn out to be just as long as a shorter one in the face of natural elements that slow the ship down and increase the cost in fuel ... and CO2 emissions!


Preparing for an OceanoScientific Expedition means anticipating as many situations as possible and preventing their consequences. In particular, it means putting together the most complete pharmacy possible, including the invaluable food supplements from our Monegasque partner PhytoQuant. Photo OceanoScientific

Wednesday 28 February 2024

LOVE THE OCEAN: Professional training catamaran 

When the Gulf of Lion is roaring along with winds of over 40 knots - Force 9 / Strong Gale on the Beaufort Scale (screenshot below) - it's best to leave the moorings securely lashed ashore! The tiny weather window we were hoping for on Monday morning 26 February didn't allow us to leave our technical base in Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône. The Lagoon 570 catamaran LOVE THE OCEAN is still moored at Pontoon K of the Pôle Nautisme Mer & Développement (Nautismed), ready to head South-West for the first of the OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Expeditions 2023-2030. The weather watch has therefore restarted. A new weather window, more reliable it seems, will open in a few days' time. Can't wait to sail!


This is an opportunity to further the objectives of the OceanoScientific association, as presented in the Newsletters of 17 and 24 January: Science & Humanity / Training young people & Blue Economy. The catamaran LOVE THE OCEAN began its career as an OceanoScientific Explorer last year as the Sailing Totem Base of the FAçade Méditerranéenne EXemplaire - FAMEX 2030 program, which led to the Tour MER & MÉTIERS – Revealing the vocations of Tomorrow. At the start of 2024, this platform is becoming a real professional training catamaran, thanks to a number of collaborations, including the decisive one with the École de l'ADN thanks to Professor Christian Siatka, Director of the Genotyping and Genomics platform at the École de l'ADN - chaired by Professor Philippe Berta - but also Vice-President of the OceanoScientific association and Scientific Director of the OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Expeditions 2023-2030.


Although purple was Florence Arthaud's favourite colour, it is the one most feared by sailors when illustrating a weather map. It highlights winds of 40 knots (four barbs on the stem indicating the wind direction), or even 50 knots (arrow on the stem), bearing in mind that gusts can reach a further ten knots or so! Screenshot of from 27 February - 08:03 am of the weather forecast for 28 February at 11:00 am (local time) in the Gulf of Lion.

"I dream of enabling our students to do practical work at sea under sail with you, to get out of the classroom! When the President of the University of Toulon, Xavier Leroux, enthusiastically conveyed his wish to me at my first meeting with him and his deputy Frédéric Guinneton late on Tuesday 12 October 2021, the idea became engraved in my memory. Making President Leroux's dream a reality was becoming a matter of course. By dint of our determination, we are getting there this year", explains Yvan Griboval.


This is already the case, with Clara Bayol on board for an Atlantic crossing and the first of the OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Expeditions 2023-2030, scheduled in Guadeloupe in April. Then, in July, we will be embarking on our second OceanoScientific eDNA Mediterranean Expedition under the direction of Professor David Mouillot (UMR Marbec - Université de Montpellier).


Clara Bayol skilfully combines her status as a student at the end of her third year of ChemBiotech engineering training in Strasbourg, with a double degree in Chemistry & Biotechnology from the École Supérieure de Biotechnologies and the École de Chimie, Polymères et Matériaux ... and that of two-time world champion in match-racing - duelling sailing competitions in the style of the America's Cup.


"By doing her end-of-studies training with the OceanoScientific association, Clara will be moving from theory to practice on board the LOVE THE OCEAN catamaran - energy self-sufficient and without CO2 emission - in the service of major innovations such as the preservation and valorization of genetic data on marine reef organisms threatened with extinction, and the collection of environmental DNA (eDNA). In this second case, the aim is not only to gain real scientific knowledge of coastal biodiversity, but also to help coastal fishermen to practice sustainable fishing for a sustainable food supply", explains Yvan Griboval. "Armed with this experience and the skills she will acquire in the field through her contact with Professor Christian Siatka, Professor David Mouillot and his team, Clara will be able to present to High school students the many opportunities offered by the use of genetics applied to marine biodiversity". These are the famous new professions of the Blue Economy. They are emerging thanks to the rapid development of scientific knowledge combined with the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The first High school students to benefit from the "Marine Biodiversity Workshops" will be those from Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône, a partner town of the OceanoScientific association.


From left to right: Clara Bayol, a trainee from the OceanoScientific association who is completing her ChemBiotech engineering studies on a double degree course in Chemistry & Biotechnology, and Julien Verne,

an employee of the company ROM-arrangé (Lorient & Mauguio) who has just installed the OCEANO VOX box

for an ocean test partly funded by the Pure Ocean Foundation as part of a call for projects won by "Citizen into Science", an initiative led by Lucie Cocquempot. Photo OceanoScientific

Clara Bayol's first assignment was to assist Julien Verne (ROM-arrangé) with the installation of the OCEANO VOX box. This is a disruptive solution, devised by Antoine Cousot, for acquiring data at sea in order to offer all pleasure boaters the chance to get involved in improving safety at sea and better understanding of the Ocean. This tool will also be useful to insurance companies.


This "Citizen into Science" project led by Lucie Cocquempot (Ifremer) won the PURE OCEAN Foundation's 2023 Call for Projects. As a result, the first set of OCEANO VOX tags, the size of a large matchbox, will be deployed in the Arctic during the summer of 2024 by a volunteer fleet of ocean-going sailing boats. The weather data collected will be made available to Ifremer, the project's scientific partner.


To ensure the reliability of this innovative solution before it is deployed in the Arctic, the OCEANO VOX tag will first be tested in ocean conditions on board the catamaran LOVE THE OCEAN during a double crossing of the North Atlantic. The small box fixed to the front of the chart table will automatically transmit in situ weather data to land every hour via a constellation of nanosatellites. This requires considerable compression of the data, but on the other hand drastically reduces the cost of acquiring this unprecedented data.


In fact, it is an adaptation for pleasure boaters of one of the functions of the OceanoScientific System (OSC System) designed by Yvan Griboval in 2006 with the help of the much-missed Fabienne Gaillard, then of Thierry Reynaud (Ifremer), Gilles Reverdin (CNRS - INSU - LOCEAN), Pierre Blouch and Jean-Baptiste Cohuet (Météo-France) and Denis Diverrès (IRD Bretagne - IMAGO).


The OSC System was built over a period of three years (2006-2009), and then developed on various sailing boats on all the major oceans, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, over a distance equivalent to twice around the World. The OSC-Software is now being developed by ROM-arrangé, following the first oceanographic campaign successfully carried out at the Air-Sea interface under sail without CO2 emission below the 40th South for sixty days non-stop under the three major continental capes: Good Hope, Leeuwin and Cape Horn, as part of the OceanoScientific Around the World Expedition 2016-2017 carried out solo by Yvan Griboval from Monaco to Monaco.


The size of a large matchbox, easy to install, the OCEANO VOX communicates with earth via a constellation of nanosatellites. Its purpose is to equip pleasure boats (sail & motor) to offer an innovative service to owners and insurance companies to improve safety at sea. Photo OceanoScientific

Mercredi 28 février 2024

Wednesday 21 February 2024

Port Navy Super Services

Just a year ago, we had a tricky task when we had to select a technical base on the Mediterranean coast to transform our newly acquired Lagoon 570 catamaran from 2001 into an OceanoScientific Explorer platform called LOVE THE OCEAN, and then commit to carrying out annual maintenance there over an eight-year cycle. At the time, we had no real knowledge of professionals in the sector. Over 45 years of professional activity on the Channel and Atlantic coasts had forged solid habits in this area, particularly with the excellent V1D2 Marine Services technical base (Caen - Normandy - France). After a great deal of work, our choice fell on Port Navy Service in Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône, where we placed the preparation of our Lagoon LOVE THE OCEAN under the coordination of Frédéric Switala and Benoît Gabriel (META Yachts Services). With just a few days to go before we cast off for the first of the OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Expeditions 2023-2030, we can only congratulate ourselves on having made the right choice. We appreciate the collaboration with the elected representatives of the town of Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône, in particular with the Mayor, Martial Alvarez, and his teams from the Pôle Nautisme Mer & Développement (Nautismed). At the Port Navy Service site - Club Lagoon's official port of call - we benefited from the presence of skilled specialists who helped us prepare for calm long-distance ocean sailing. From now on, we will have to wait for the storm "Louis" and its Mediterranean consequences to blow elsewhere before LOVE THE OCEAN can set a course to the South-West...


The Lagoon 570 catamaran LOVE THE OCEAN manoeuvres to berth at the Port Navy Service quay. 

Drone photo Maeve Fabre - Port Navy Service

Since last May, Port Navy Service, managed by Philippe Froment, and the Club Lagoon have been combining their skills to offer exclusive benefits to owners of catamarans produced by CNB (Beneteau Group) who are members of the Club Lagoon. These include first-class berths, exceptional discounts on port services and many other privileges. This partnership is tailor-made for Lagoon lovers like us! In fact, LOVE THE OCEAN is one of the Ambassadors of the Club Lagoon. This community of excellence offers its members access to a network of prestigious marinas in many countries and exclusive discounts on the online Lagoon Boutique.


At Port Navy Service, in addition to the multi-disciplinary commitment of META Yachts Services - comparable to what is practiced in the preparation of ocean-racing yachts in the English Channel and Atlantic - we benefited from the services of the talented and rigorous team of Christophe Ortin (Atelier Marine Services), who worked efficiently on our two Yanmar engines, their saildrives and our Onan generator. They are also responsible for monitoring the maintenance of the Suzuki engine powering our Vanguard RIB. A valuable tandem with proven efficiency for the OceanoScientific eDNA Mediterranean Expeditions.


Port Navy Service is an increasingly renowned technical base. It is not uncommon to meet famous sailors like Paul Meilhat, who is wintering his personal catamaran here. Or famous ships, like the schooner TARA here, which has just completed its campaign on the Rhône and is preparing to return to sea. Drone photo Maeve Fabre - Port Navy Service

All the Raymarine equipment was installed by Nicolas Escande (AD Nautic - The Wind Ship), who also checked and re-commissioned the interior lighting, as well as some electrical equipment such as the windlass, essential for our oceanographic missions. The saddlery work was carried out by Stéphane Lebar (WBS Yacht Service - Global Nautic).


Two outside companies were involved on board LOVE THE OCEAN during its stay in Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône. ROM-arrangé, THE reference in the capital of world ocean racing (Lorient - France) in terms of computer equipment and satellite links, thanks to its branch in Mauguio (near Montpellier - France) equipped our catamaran with the best equipment in this field. YACHTELEC, a company based in La Ciotat, renowned in the world of prestige yachting and superyachts, but also the only representative on the French Mediterranean coast of desalinator from the Italian brand Idromar, has refurbished this guarantee of unlimited freshwater autonomy. An important complement to the energy autonomy produced by the 2,000 watts of solar panels. Everything needed to be able to sail and explore without CO2 emission, even in the heart of protected marine areas...


At the time we publish this text, while the storm "Louis" is likely to ravage the North of our Atlantic coast and those of the Channel as far inland as possible, the Southern part of the storm will generate a severe South-Westerly storm, right in front of the bows of LOVE THE OCEAN. Nature imposes its own rhythm, which must be respected. As a result, we are going to have to wait for the weather window on Thursday 29 February to cast off. We will be staying at Pontoon K in Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône for a few days and don't expect to return to our technical base at Port Navy Service until the second half of August. There, we will carry out the maintenance before embarking on the Tour MER & MÉTIERS – Revealing the vocations of Tomorrow. A big month along the Mediterranean coast from Nice to La Grande Motte and we will be heading to Bordeaux in mid-December. This will be an opportunity to take part in the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Lagoon brand (140 years of the Beneteau Group) at the CNB boatyard pontoon, on the right bank of the Garonne.


Pontoon K in Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône, specially designed to accommodate catamarans, is exceptional year-round, whether you are wintering in the Mistral or looking for a quiet stopover in the summer, when the surrounding marinas are overflowing and excessively noisy. A stopover that we recommend! Photo OceanoScientific

Mercredi 21 février 2024

Wednesday 7 February 2024

Heading for the Parc national de la Guadeloupe

While the first of the OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Expeditions 2023-2030 had been planned for a long time to the island of Juan de Nova (Indian Ocean - Eparses Islands - France - TAAF), the Board of Directors of the philanthropic association of general interest OceanoScientific approved on Tuesday 6 February the alignment of its tropical campaigns with its global strategy. Instead of Juan de Nova, this first mission will take place on the other side of the Atlantic, in the Parc national de la Guadeloupe, in close collaboration with the management of this exceptional site and with its own scientific and educational partners. As Yvan Griboval, Director of the OceanoScientific Expeditions and skipper of the Lagoon 570 catamaran LOVE THE OCEAN, explains below, this is a change of direction that is totally in line with our strategic direction: to focus all our science-based activities on "Guiding young people towards the new professions of the Blue Economy". The preparation of our innovative oceanographic platform - which will sail with total energy autonomy and no CO2 emission - is now coming to an end in Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône under the coordination of Frédéric Switala and Benoît Gabriel (META Yachts Services).

Photo_01-PNG-Grand_Cul-de-Sac_Marin-Vue_aerienne-Photo_Anne Chopin-Lt.jpg

The Parc national de la Guadeloupe, which includes the Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin cove in the north of the island, is an exploration site rich in biodiversity. Like the rest of the Caribbean, it is suffering from the combined effects of climate change and anthropic pressure. Using in situ DNA sequencing to collect genetic data of marine organisms threatened with extinction as a result of the Sixth Extinction is of the utmost importance in safeguarding Guadeloupe's heritage. Photo by Anne Chopin with the kind permission of the Parc national de la Guadeloupe

"As we wish to carry out OceanoScientific Expeditions whose purpose is directly linked to benefiting young people in the territories explored, Juan de Nova, one of the five uninhabited Eparses islands, whose scientific interest is unchanged, no longer met our priorities", explained Yvan Griboval at the end of the Board of Directors meeting on the evening of Tuesday 6 February. "But not being able to take high school students to discover molecular genetics aboard our 17-metre catamaran is not the only reason for this change of objective.


Indeed, despite the sincere enthusiasm of the highly competent scientists from the universities of Mayotte and La Réunion with whom we were starting a collaboration, no scientific program could accommodate our OceanoScientific Expedition, because of its extremely innovative nature, outside traditional oceanographic standards. No one imagines that in situ DNA sequencing is possible and, above all, useful for the preservation and enhancement of genetic data from marine organisms threatened by the Sixth Extinction and anthropic pressure!


Self-taught, I'm an instinctive person. So I was keen to make the special trip to Saint-Pierre in La Réunion for a meeting on 21 September 2023 with the Prefect of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands (Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises - TAAF) and her department heads. During our 90-minute meeting, I realised that the welcome we would receive from the TAAF administration would not be commensurate with our commitment. I felt that the efforts made by our sponsors and partners to enable us to carry out this exploratory mission - at depths of five to eight meters in order to preserve unknown genetic data - would not be rewarded by a constructive collaboration to ensure the success of this undertaking. I deduced from this that the two times 80-90 days of sailing with an incursion into the Roaring Forties below the Cape of Good Hope should at the very least be postponed until the TAAF administration understood what was at stake. The enthusiasm of the Bureau de l'Action de l'État en Mer (BAEM) for the South-West Indian Ocean zone was not enough to counterbalance the TAAF's position.


The idea of working on a "proof of concept" in Guadeloupe, on the same dates as those chosen for Juan de Nova: Monday 8 to Friday 19 April inclusive, was obvious. Initial contact with Valérie Séné, Director of the Parc national de la Guadeloupe, and her colleague Sophie Bédel, confirmed this. Another factor in favour of the choice of a mission in the lagoon of Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin was that the École de l'ADN, chaired by Professors Philippe Berta and Christian Siatka, is currently being set up in Guadeloupe to give young people access to careers in genetics. Christian Siatka, Vice-President of the OceanoScientific association, is also our onboard reference geneticist in his capacity as Scientific Director. Carrying out the first of the OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Expeditions 2023-2030 on this island in the French West Indies will speed up the implementation of this project for the benefit of the people of Guadeloupe.


We will be setting sail for Guadeloupe late February and we are delighted to be able to start working with the teams from the Parc national de la Guadeloupe and its scientific and educational partners".


The Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin cove is a jewel of marine biodiversity in the Parc national de la Guadeloupe, to the north of the island. It is probably one of the most strictly controlled marine sites in the French Overseas Territories to ensure its sustainable preservation, thanks to the teams who manage it with passion. However, many of its organisms are still poorly understood, especially when it comes to their genetic characteristics. Map published with the kind permission of the Parc national de la Guadeloupe

Mercredi 7 février 2024

Wednesday 31 January 2024


Plastimo was the first technical partner & official supplier of the Chantier Bénéteau's factory skipper, Yvan Griboval, in June 1981 for the TWOSTAR, the British double-handed transatlantic race from Plymouth (UK) to Newport (USA), raced with François Carpente on FIRST, a First 35. It is hardly surprising that 43 years later, Plastimo is once again involved in an adventure led by Yvan Griboval, now Director of the OceanoScientific Expeditions and skipper of the Lagoon 570 catamaran LOVE THE OCEAN"To carry out oceanographic explorations under sail without CO2 emission in little-known and sometimes hostile maritime areas, the first concern is the safety of both the ship and its crew. Indeed, Plastimo (Alliance Marine Group) offers the most appropriate range of equipment to guarantee safe sailing and to ward off the misfortunes of the sea to which every sailor is exposed when leaving port", explains Yvan Griboval. "Working with the best in all areas increases our chances of success, and guarantees our partners that we are taking care to put the maximum chances on our side so that we can proudly wear their colors aboard LOVE THE OCEAN".


On Wednesday 24 January, Plastimo’s Marketing & Communication Director Frédéric Blaudeau (left)

and Yvan Griboval shook hands to seal the collaboration agreement between Plastimo and the OceanoScientific association for the public-interest sailings carried out by the Lagoon 570 catamaran LOVE THE OCEAN during the OceanoScientific Expeditions 2024-2030 cycle. Photo OceanoScientific – Plastimo

Who could have imagined - and certainly not Antoine Zuliani, the innovative entrepreneur he was when he created Plastimo in Lorient in 1963 - that 60 years later the Morbihan-based (France) brand would be present in 90 countries, with no fewer than 1,600 resellers in France!


Just as Benjamin Bénéteau, grandfather of Madame Annette Roux, couldn't have imagined when he founded his shipyard on the banks of the Vie river in Vendée in 1884, in Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie (France), that 140 years later his granddaughter would have turned it into an international behemoth of the nautical industry, accumulating world leadership titles, starting with pleasure catamaran builder with the Lagoon brand, which celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year!


Plastimo is an emblematic brand in the yachting industry, accompanying sailors and yachting professionals on all the seas Worldwide. Its proprietary ranges carry the brand's DNA and are complemented by a selection of well-known specialist brands, many of which come from the world of the Alliance Marine Group.


Plastimo stands for 12,000 products highlighting the four fundamental values of the Plastimo crew: Safety - Innovation - Pleasure for the Practitioner - Service for the Professional. These are the four cardinal points of Plastimo, a company renowned for its famous compasses still made in its own historic workshops, not far from the Lorient submarine base, now just a stone's throw from the huge buildings of the World's largest ocean racing stables, which became the famous Sailing Valley - Lorient La Base.


Safety is at the very heart of Plastimo's DNA ever since its origins, when its "Plein Ciel" life jackets were the uniform of the emblematic Les Glénans Sailing School. Safety has always been the guiding principle in the brand's development, as demonstrated by the latest life jackets, lanyards and harnesses to come out of the Lorient R&D department.


Plastimo and OceanoScientific share fundamental values relating to the necessary preservation of marine biodiversity, so it is just natural that Plastimo embarks on the Lagoon 570 catamaran LOVE THE OCEAN ...for long sailings...

Mercredi 31 janvier 2024

Wednesday 24 January 2024

Guiding young people towards the new professions

of the Blue Economy

After presenting the new Board of Directors of the OceanoScientific association in the Newsletter of January 10; and having outlined the scientific objectives of the seven-year cycle from 2024 to 2030 in the Newsletter of January 17Yvan Griboval, President of the philanthropic association of general interest OceanoScientific, Director of the expeditions and skipper of the Lagoon 570 catamaran adapted as the oceanographic platform LOVE THE OCEAN, now presents the major objective of OceanoScientific in the form of an interview, validated by the members of the Board of Directors. It is the fruit of a long journey that began almost twenty years ago, in 2005, when the project was born to take advantage of sailing boats navigating in little-known maritime zones, and specifically under the three great continental capes: Good Hope, Leeuwin and Cape Horn, to collect oceanographic data of interest, while using these human adventures to raise awareness among the widest possible public of the need to respect and love the Ocean. The first major development, as mentioned on January 17, was the decision to assist scientists on condition that the data collected are used directly for the benefit of Humanity. The ultimate aim of our approach is now to implement everything we do, our OceanoScientific Expeditions, like all the other events organized by the association and the publicity they generate, for a single, far-reaching cause: to give young people access to the new professions of the Blue Economy.


If the famous artist-photographer-diver from Nice, Greg Lecoeur, has captured here a marvellous scene of the life of a healthy coral reef, we can see in it the object of the OceanoScientific Coral Reef Expeditions 2023-2030. In other words, marine organisms whose DNA will be sequenced by Professor Christian Siatka using tiny samples collected without harming them, with the ultimate aim of identifying molecules of interest for Health, Well-being and Environmental Services for young people in the new professions of the Blue Economy. Photo Greg Lecoeur (All rights reserved)

Question - Why focusing the association's missions on raising awareness among high school and university students of the new professions of the Blue Economy?


Yvan Griboval - “When I returned to the Yacht Club de Monaco on June 2, 2017 at the end of the OceanoScientific Around the World Expedition 2016-2017, I brought back a single word from my adventure: "EFFICACITY", which I have been trying to put into practice ever since efficiently as possible! 


Directing our oceanographic campaigns to serve Humanity is a first step. Indeed, we made a start on this theme last year with the OceanoScientific eDNA Mediterranean Expedition 2023.


In 2005-2006, the reason I decided to turn my attention to a philanthropic activity aimed at improving our knowledge of the Ocean, so as to better preserve it for future generations, was because I was about to become a father again. Because I realize that my son or daughter will never know Nature as it was in the 60s and 70s, when I spent most of my free time on the foreshore of the Pays de Caux (Normandy - France) and in the coastal strip of no more than one nautical mile (1,852 meters) where fishing resources flourished in profusion and seemed inexhaustible.


When the expected child turned out to be two identical twins and their sister, thus triplets (!), my convictions were reinforced. I then gradually abandoned my original field of activity - event communications in the field of sports sailing - to devote myself progressively, and then 100%, to the development of what has become the OceanoScientific philanthropic association of general interest. In this process, Cécile d'Estais-Griboval, my wife and the Super Mom of the triplets, joined the OceanoScientific association very early on, driven by the same energy as I am, to work with passion, obviously thinking of the generation of our soon-to-be 17-year-old children, but above all of future generations, without distinction of any kind, neither origin nor nationality.


Two other stages were decisive.


The first was when our triplets, born in June 2007, were around ten years old and I had just returned from my solo trip around the Planet. I explained to them the need to take an interest in as many subjects as possible, in anticipation of their professional lives in professions that probably didn't yet exist. Hence the imperative need to be curious and not to limit their dreams in any way. Because what is impossible one day will be obvious the next, if you are determined not to be constrained in your thinking or actions.


The second stage is more recent. It took place just over a year ago. When the three youngsters, well into the "exquisite" period of adolescence, found themselves in Seconde (first year of High School in France) with a choice of three specialties. This fundamental choice was the preamble to dropping one of the three specialties at the end of Première (second year of High School in France). And to round off Terminale (last year of High School in France) with a tighter selection of subjects to fit the mold of Parcoursup (a French platform for admission to superior education). In short, the exact opposite of what I recommended to our triplets five years earlier!


At a time when thousands of new professions are emerging in all fields, thanks in particular to ever more powerful tools - not to mention the contribution of Artificial Intelligence! - why should we limit the academic achievements of this young generation on the pretext of adapting to a mold based on an educational system from another century?


When I was between twenty and thirty years old, in 1970-90, being self-taught with no qualifications was potentially a huge handicap. That wasn't my case, and I am proud of it. Today, self-taught status is more of an asset than a hindrance to an exciting career in a new profession. A professional activity that you can design and develop yourself, thanks to the many advantages offered by both the French state and local authorities. No other country offers young people such opportunities. Let's help them make the most of them.”


Question - How are you going to reconcile the major missions of the OceanoScientific association with this impetus towards the new emerging professions of the Blue Economy?


Yvan Griboval - “First of all, an observation. Many teenagers are developing a school phobia and find themself totally demotivated to the point of having no interest whatsoever in high school courses "when there is everything you want on the Internet", as the recalcitrant teenagers keeps telling us. 


We have to admit that the number of those we call "National Education Castaways" is significant: demotivated children, disillusioned young students.


And yet, never before has the maritime sector and its extensions been so synonymous with future employment, except perhaps in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But even then, I doubt it. At that time, there were no universal means of communication available, which today offer an international audience to the slightest word spoken on social networks, tools for global development among others...


A simple example. The Australians broke off the contract with France to supply them with submarines. The Americans and the British used whatever arguments they could to discredit our country and our skills in this field. But they recently retracted their decision, announcing that it would be impossible to deliver the famous Anglo-Saxon submarines. The reason? A lack of qualified manpower, due to a lack of training courses adapted to the new technologies developed by ever more creative engineers, and to ever more sophisticated materials.


In our field of using of genetics applied to marine organisms from French coral reefs, many tasks, expressions of biomimicry, need to be invented to establish an effective link between: the collection of tiny samples; DNA sequencing; the research and the valorization of molecules of interest; and the industrial and commercial use that could be made of them in the end.


As part of the highly innovative projects we are working on, we would like to point out that, as far as the valorization of (digital) genetic data and the marketing of products derived from it are concerned, we are lobbying the French authorities to ensure that any patent relating to the use of living organisms remains inalienably held by a third party in the territory of origin of the sequenced samples. No less. This is a major advance on the international rules governed by the famous Nagoya Protocol, which, as far as I'm concerned, is unfortunately as effective as a tennis racket without strings.


Of course, we have, directly or indirectly, strictly no financial or other interest in the exploitation of these digital data derived from living organisms.


We have been working on this project for two years under the name REssources FRAnçaises CORalliennes - REFRACOR 2030. We will have a chance to explain the ins and outs in a few weeks' time, once we are at sea on our first tropical mission.


Thanks to the decisive contribution of geneticist Professor Christian Siatka - presented in his role as Vice-President of the OceanoScientific association in the Newsletter of January 10 - and his experience as Director of the Genotyping and Genomics platform of the École de l’ADN, but also as designer and supplier of DNA kits to several hundred teachers of Life and Earth Sciences (LES) in middle and high schools, it will be possible, on April 17, 18 and 19, to raise awareness among 15 to 19 year-olds of the use of DNA applied to marine organisms in the reefs in front of their homes.


On board the Lagoon 570, transformed into the OceanoScientific Explorer LOVE THE OCEAN, we will be carrying out in-situ sequencing workshops in the lagoon, under the guidance of Professor Christian Siatka, Scientific Director of the OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Expeditions 2023-2030.


The aim is therefore to motivate these young people to see coral reefs not just as tourist sites for Metropolitan French and foreigners, but as the promise of jobs, the guarantee of being able to develop a professional activity without needing to be magnetized by Metropolitan France and its chimeras."

Mercredi 24 janvier 2024

Wednesday 17 January 2024

Putting Science at the service of Humanity

As announced in the weekly Newsletter of Wednesday 10 January, on the occasion of the presentation of the new Board of Directors, this week we are talking about the scientific objectives of the OceanoScientific association for a seven-year cycle, from 2024 to 2030 inclusive. In the Newsletter of Wednesday 24 January, we will reveal the purpose of the OceanoScientific actions and eponymous expeditions. From the creation of the OceanoScientific Program on the 14 November 2016 to the OceanoScientific Mediterranean Contaminants Expedition 2020, the priority objective has been to collect physico-chemical oceanographic data, notably during the solo circumnavigation of the globe to carry out the OceanoScientific Expedition 2016-2017, which was the first campaign to collect scientific data at the Air-Sea interface under sail without CO2 emission below the 40th South, in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, below the three great continental capes: Good Hope, Leeuwin and Cape Horn. Yvan Griboval, President of the philanthropic association of general interest OceanoScientific, Director of the expeditions and skipper of the oceanographic platform LOVE THE OCEAN, adapted from a Lagoon 570 catamaran, presents these objectives below in the form of an interview, approved by the members of the Board of Directors.


The OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Expeditions 2023-2030 will focus on studying the sponges that populate France's reef heritage. All of this will be carried out by a sailboat that will be self-sufficient in energy, without CO2 emission. The aim will be to collect tiny samples, without killing or harming the marine organisms studied, for initial DNA sequencing on board the catamaran LOVE THE OCEAN, using the molecular genetics cabin designed by our Vice-President, Christian Siatka. Photo Thierry Pérez, CNRS Research Director at the Station Marine d'Endoume - IMBE (Marseille - France).

Question - Why are you now interested in marine reef organisms?


Yvan Griboval - "First of all, it is important to point out that we haven't given up collecting physico-chemical data. In fact, a fourth version of the OceanoScientific System (OSC System) has been developed and we intend to install it as soon as possible on board the catamaran Lagoon 570 LOVE THE OCEAN. However, this is no longer the main focus of our OceanoScientific Expeditions.


With this in mind, we are currently in the process of equipping our Lagoon 570 with the OCEANO VOX system developed by Antoine Cousot in close collaboration with Thierry Reynaud, an Ifremer researcher who played an effective role in developing the OSC System and supervising the OceanoScientific Around the World Expedition 2016-2017. Thanks to funding from the PURE OCEAN foundation as a result of a call for projects won in 2023, we will be testing two OCEANO VOX boxes over long ocean distances to enable Antoine to finalize this product. It is ultimately intended for pleasure sailing boats, as part of a vast operation led by Lucie Cocquempot, the bearer of this winning project: "Citizen into Science" in her capacity as Oceanographic Observation Coordinator at Ifremer, which has been encouraging participatory science for almost twenty years.


These physico-chemical data are of prime importance when it comes to assessing anthropic pressure on marine biodiversity and the impact of Man on Nature. Consequently, the fact that the Lagoon 570 LOVE THE OCEAN has such an innovative equipment is a real asset to be leveraged for the benefit of institutes and researchers who devote significant resources to these studies. However, raising funds for this purpose is complex...


Nevertheless, from 2018 to 2022, two reflections have been progressively linked. The first relates to feedback from the many conferences held to report on my solo circumnavigation as part of the OceanoScientific Around the World Expedition 2016-2017.


Whether I was talking to school students from upper classes of elementary school - our priority target in those years - or to adults, every time I mentioned the scientific mission carried out on behalf of our partners: Ifremer, Météo-France, IRD and CNRS, the same question came up: "What is the use of what you have collected?"


I admit to felt a certain unease when I read the waning interest in my adventure in the eyes of my interlocutors, whatever their age; when I explained that these scientific data collected far from land in hostile seas, by implication at the risk of my life, were destined to feed databases totally abstruse to the public. At best - and this was the initial commitment of the excellent researchers who supervised the OceanoScientific Expeditions in question - the result would have been a scientific publication aimed at the "few" scientists concerned by the subject. A "few", because you can't reasonably compare the audience of a scientific publication with that of a general news magazine.


When I explained that these oceanographic data, which are rare and of great scientific value, have no market value; that the researchers concerned don't pay a single euro to access and use it, or even to make a significant contribution to funding the campaigns used to collect it, my audience's already flagging interest turned frankly critical on the theme: "All that for this? ...".


This observation made us think hard.


Indeed, one of the aims of the OceanoScientific Expeditions is to use the maritime adventure of its innovative scientific sailing missions in little-known and little-visited maritime zones, to raise the awareness of the widest possible public, so that everyone takes an interest in the Ocean, with the aim of respecting it, preserving it for future generations, and loving the Ocean. Hence the name of our catamaran: LOVE THE OCEAN. Without easy public support, the objective is not achieved.


It was during the first confinement, trapped by the situation in our house in Cabourg (Normandy - France) with a strict ban on treading the damp sand of the immense Normandy beach that the sea uncovers so far away at low tide (what an ordeal!), that I became aware that the common denominator of Humanity was in fact the fear of illness, the fear of dying, even of growing old.


However, not being myself a scuba-diver and therefore not frequenting the wonders of tropical waters, it was thanks to the research and storytelling talents of Denis Allemand, Scientific Director of the Centre Scientifique de Monaco, that I learned that the marine organisms that populate coral reefs potentially conceal molecules of interest for human health and well-being: dermatology, cosmetology, nutrition. A door opened up on my self-taught journey...


While my first intention, inspired by Denis Allemand's communicative passion, was to take a natural interest in coral, I gradually abandoned the idea of making it the Alpha and Omega of the OceanoScientific Expeditions for a number of reasons, the most decisive of which was a conversation with Gilles Boeuf on Tuesday 8 February 2022 in Brest on the way to Oceanopolis during the One Ocean Summit. It can be summed up in these few words: "Yvan, if you go to the coral reefs, take an interest in sponges as a priority, they are extraordinary animals about which we know little except that they can provide solutions for the benefit of humans through biomimicry..."


All it took was another meeting, this one on Wednesday 17 August 2022, with Professor Thierry Pérez, an internationally renowned sponge scientist based in the Endoume district of Marseille (France) at the Institut Méditerranéen de Biodiversité et d'Écologie marine et continentale (IMBE), to be definitively won over by the sponge virus, those fantastic animals that pioneered the Planet approximately 650 million years ago.


In addition, I was struck at the same time by the resentment of my audiences of all ages, as well as prospective company directors, at the realization that these oceanographic data, reputed to be unique and of great value, in fact had no market value whatsoever. And no matter what you do, no matter what you say, it is difficult if not impossible in our consumerist society to justify fighting for the preservation of something that is, in fact, "worthless" in their eyes...


Thanks to the hypothesis, justified by thirteen Nobel Prizes in Medicine - that is no mean feat! - that marine organisms potentially conceal molecules of interest for human health and well-being, it seemed possible to me to add value to these animals forgotten on their reef rocks, and therefore to mobilize for their preservation, starting by working to know them better."


Question - But the more you demonstrate that what is freely available in the sea has value, the more you will increase the plundering and destruction of coral reef biodiversity, the opposite of the message you want to convey?


Yvan Griboval - "Indeed, it is a subject that kept me busy many nights. Rather sleepless and anxious ones! An equation that seemed impossible to solve. All the information I gleaned here and there showed that the search for molecules of interest from marine organisms required the use of hundreds of kilos, tons of live animals, due to the biological techniques used for this deadly research.


As an autodidact who believes that what is impossible is in fact what has not yet been achieved, I imagined that by resorting to genetics, by working on the DNA of marine organisms, there was probably a way of identifying these famous high value-added molecules ... without killing or harming the slightest animal. On land, I fight every day never to kill spiders or flies, so I'm not going to kill colonies of animals at sea, some of which, like sponges, are reputed to be the first multicellular animals to have taken up residence on our planet...


But when I raised this idea with our research contacts, I was politely advised to "look after my sailing boat and let the specialists do the Science". At least, that is how I perceived it...


Yet, when a self-taught person instinctively feels that there is a path where everyone else sees only the densest jungle, it is sometimes useful to remain attentive to what he or she is going to achieve. Willpower, combined with a healthy dose of stubbornness and enthusiasm, can sometimes open up unsuspected opportunities...


As the world of French oceanography scoffed at my idea of using genetic data from marine organisms, I turned in September 2021 to a geneticist who knew nothing about reef organisms other than the superb images in magazines extolling these enchanting seabeds. So I addressed Professeur Christian Siatka, co-founder and Chairman of the Scientific Board of the École de l'ADN and, among other prestigious positions, member of the Unité Propre de Recherche CHROME (UPR CHROME), ...who last October became Vice-President of the OceanoScientific association and Scientific Director of the OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Expeditions 2023-2030.


When Christian explained to me that a hair, a fingernail clippings or a little saliva can be used to accurately collect DNA of a human being, and that it would therefore only take a few millimeters of sponges to collect their genetic data, from which it would then be possible to study for their molecular characteristics, enabling the search for the "famous" molecules of interest, I realized that a path was indeed opening up in front of me. More like a freeway than a country lane!"


Question - From now on, what are exactly the scientific objectives of the OceanoScientific association?


Yvan Griboval - "We have two objectives in one. In one because in both cases, it is a question of genetics, of processing, of exploiting the DNA of marine organisms without ever removing them from their environment, without harming them and even less killing them.


While the maturation of the coral reefs project was gradual and rather long to define precisely, the decision to collect eDNA* samples was much quicker.


As always in the life of a self-taught person, it is the mysteries of Life: the Encounters, that guide us towards certain paths rather than others. In this case, a long exchange on Friday 16 September 2022 in La Ciotat on the sidelines of the Lumexplore Festival with Pierre Boissery, Expert in coastal waters and the Mediterranean coast of the Rhone Mediterranean Corsica water Agency, was decisive. We got closer to each other on the theme: "The Mediterranean is not a dustbin, let's make it known so that this sea with its rich biodiversity is respected as it deserves, rather than being vilified as one of the most polluted maritime spaces in the world, a sea where everything is screwed up, where it would be pointless to fight to preserve its biodiversity...".


Pierre Boissery quickly put me in touch with Professeur David Mouillot, a researcher at the Marbec Joint Research Unit (UMR Marbec) based at the University of Montpellier. It was a professional love at first sight on Wednesday 26 October 2022 in his laboratory, with this pioneer in the use of eDNA* to precisely identify species living in coastal marine areas.


This is how the OceanoScientific association got fully enrolled as a science logistician in the BioDivMed Mission, carrying out its first OceanoScientific eDNA* Mediterranean Expedition last July, before committing to a further four-year cycle on this theme in 2024-2027 to create "Biodiversity Sentinels", from Menton to La Grande Motte in our case.


The BioDivMed Mission 2023 consisted in carrying out a synchronized and standardized inventory of living organisms on the French Mediterranean coast and in the Pelagos sanctuary, using eDNA*, under the joint impetus of the Rhone Mediterranean Corsica water Agency, the University of Montpellier and an ANR-funded joint laboratory between theMarbec Joint Research Unit (UMR Marbec) and the company SpyGen.


This unprecedented and exemplary partnership in the service of marine biodiversity also involved Andromède Océanologie, the Vigilife alliance and two philanthropic associations in Nice: Greg Lecoeur's We are Méditerranée and OceanoScientific.


This exceptional operation was the first fine-scale, synchronous mapping of marine biodiversity from the French Mediterranean coastal zone, including lagoons, river mouths and harbors, to the Pelagos Sanctuary between Corsica and the mainland, in order to better understand the occurrences of fish, crustacean and marine mammal species.


Never before such a synchronized and standardized inventory of marine biodiversity has been carried out in France. OceanoScientific took a record of 104 thirty-minute samples at 52 Stations (see map below) along the 465 nautical mile (862 km) route of the OceanoScientific eDNA* Mediterranean Expedition 2023, dedicated to this unprecedented collection of eDNA* along the French Mediterranean coast."


Delivery of environmental DNA (eDNA) samples in the port of La Grande Motte in July 2023 as part of the OceanoScientific eDNA Mediterranean Expedition 2023. From left to right: David Mouillot (Scientific Director / UMR Marbec - University of Montpellier), Yvan Griboval (OceanoScientific Expedition Director & Skipper), Léa Griboval(Speed & Depth Manager), Pierre Friant (Second -in-Command & Vanguard-Suzuki Pilot), Léni Guillotin (Marine Biologist / Scientific Manager), Justine Camus (OceanoScientific Expedition Coordinator / GPS trajectory Manager). Photo OceanoScientific

Question - Listening to you, it is easy to see why the OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Expeditions are of interest to Humankind. When it comes to collecting eDNA samples, the interest for human beings seems less obvious. Tell us about it...


Yvan Griboval - "Indeed, the OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Expeditions will enable genetic data to be used for Health (Human - Animal), Well-being (Dermatology - Cosmetology - Nutrition) and Environmental Services (Agriculture - Aquaculture - Depollution).


If today, eDNA* is a proven tool for identifying species present in volumes of water up to 30 meters deep, which remains a major scientific innovation and has shown that species thought to be extinct still populate the French shores of the Mediterranean Sea, in the near future, Professor David Mouillot, with the help of the SpyGen teams, will be able to identify not only the presence of species on a given site, but also their density.


This information will become a fantastic asset for inshore fishermen - those involved in "small-scale fishing" - who will be able to put their fishing sites in fallow. In other words, they will be able to reduce fishing pressure for a while on their favorite sites, which are sometimes relentlessly prospected from grandfather to grandson, and let the fish stocks recover, by fishing elsewhere, on the advice of scientists, where the resources are more abundant. It is a win-win situation. For Nature first. Then for the fishermen, both in terms of sales (by accessing a larger resource) and in terms of the guarantee of a sustainable resource. This will enable young people to succeed them without fear of a tomorrow without fish.


In this way, we will promote in the medium to short term the implementation of a sustainable fishing for a sustainable food.


In conclusion, our work will always serve Fundamental Science - since our status as "Oceanography Logisticians" will strengthen French researchers' access to quality scientific data. But our priority now is to encourage what I call "Science of Use", whose aim is to "be of use to Humanity as quickly as possible".


Thus, when young people ask me "Sir, what is the point of what you are doing?", I will no longer see disappointment in their eyes, but on the contrary a definite interest, and even the realization that the Blue Economy's professions of the Future are being created, and that new career paths are opening up for them. This will be the subject of our next Newsletter on Wednesday 24 October..."


* environmental DNA 


In July 2023, OceanoScientific took a record of 104 thirty-minute samples at 52 Stations on the 465 nautical mile          (862 km) of the OceanoScientific eDNA Mediterranean Expedition 2023, dedicated to this unprecedented collection

of eDNA* along the French Mediterranean coast. Photo OceanoScientific

Mercredi 17 janvier 2024

Wednesday 10 January 2024

Reshuffle of the Board of Directors

At the start of January, the thirteenth anniversary of the OceanoScientific association (07/01/2011), when reshuffling is a hot topic in France, we are delighted to announce that our Board of Directors is now made up of: Yvan Griboval, President; Professeur Christian Siatka, Vice-President; Béatrice Witvoet, General Secretary; Charlotte Bouery, Treasurer; Philippe de Boucaud and Richard Houbron. We would also like to express our respect and gratitude to our outgoing members: Rupert Schmid, co-Founder of this NGO, Rémi Bollack, Juliette Declercq and Manon Praud. Over the past thirteen years, Rupert Schmid's comments, advice and contributions have enabled OceanoScientific to grow, sometimes overcoming difficult hurdles, by constantly moving forward in the spirit of conquest that befits a philanthropic association of general interest, whose priority objective is both to explore little-known maritime area under sail without CO2 emission, and to raise awareness among young people of the imperative need to RESPECT and LOVE the Ocean.


At sunset on 27 December 2023, on a calm Mediterranean Sea, the Lagoon 570 catamaran LOVE THE OCEAN,

skippered solo by Yvan Griboval, points its bows at Cap Lardier, the southern tip of the Saint-Tropez peninsula,

on the way to the Pôle Nautisme of Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône to complete the preparation for the actual departure

of the first of the OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Expeditions 2023-2030. Photo OceanoScientific

Here are a few details about the new Board of Directors of the OceanoScientific philanthropic association of general interest, based in Nice, the host city from 5 to 15 June 2025 of the third United Nations Ocean Conference - UNOC Nice 25.


Yvan Griboval, President, Director of the OceanoScientific Expeditions and skipper of the Lagoon 570 catamaran LOVE THE OCEAN, wanted a scientific Vice-President at his side who could take on three tasks in one.


His first mission: To guide the association in promoting the use of science, and specifically the genetics of marine reef organisms, for the benefit of Health (Human - Animal), Well-being (Dermatology - Cosmetology - Nutrition) and Environmental Services (Agriculture - Aquaculture - Depollution).


Its second mission: To design the molecular biology cabin on the 17-meter catamaran LOVE THE OCEAN, so that he can perform in-situ DNA sequencing of samples as soon as they leave the water, when the scuba-diving scientists bring them back on board after their coral reef explorations. This will be a real scientific innovation.


Its third mission: To run introductory workshops in genetics applied to marine organisms and DNA sequencing on board or ashore near the LOVE THE OCEAN catamaran, in order to promote the new professions of the Blue Economy to young people before they embark on the courses identified by Parcoursup (a French platform for admission to superior education). This third activity will be one of the innovative features of forthcoming stopovers on the Tour MER & MÉTIERS - Revealing the vocations of Tomorrow. It will be implemented as soon as April 2024.


The Vice-President is Professeur Christian Siatka: Geneticist, toxicologist, University Professor at the University of Nîmes, Deputy Director of the BIOTIN Master's program, Head of the Professional Degree of Biotechnology professions and member of the Unité Propre de Recherche CHROME (UPR CHROME). He teaches Molecular Genetics, Biotechnology, Toxicology and Regulation/Quality. Christian Siatka is Director of the Genotyping and Genomics platform at the École de l'ADN, chaired by Professor Philippe Berta, who is also Member of Parliament for the sixth district of Gard. He is involved in Research programs in Human Genetics, Environmental Genetics and Functional Genomics. Christian Siatka is a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Citizen’s Reserve - "Pôle Judicaire" of the National Gendarmerie and an Expert for the European Commission.


General Secretary, Béatrice Witvoet, Lawyer at the Paris Bar since 1992, has a degree in European Law from Paris II University, in collaboration with the Universidad Complutense of Madrid as part of the Erasmus program. She also holds a Master's degree in International Transport Economics and Law from Paris I University. Béatrice worked at the Bouloy Grellet et Associés Office for eight years before founding LBEW with two other lawyers. LBEW is a niche firm specializing in the maritime sector covering transport, logistics and industrial risks, working for transport operators, marine and industrial insurance players, both in France and abroad. In 2004, Béatrice and four other women founded the French branch of the Women International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) network, which now has around around 100 members. WISTA is present in forty countries and has three thousand members. Administrator of the French Maritime Cluster and the École Nationale Supérieure Maritime (ENSM), Béatrice Witvoet works on a number of large-scale projects: promotion of French marine insurance; the legal environment for Marine Renewable Energies (MRE); and the attractiveness of marine business lines to women.


Treasurer, Charlotte Bouery, daughter of a Navy officer, spent her youth on the French coast in the major naval ports of Cherbourg and Toulon. After graduating with a Master's degree in Science and Management from the prestigious faculty of Paris-Dauphine, Charlotte then began a career in international finance as an equity trader with CDC IXIS. After a few years' break to devote herself to raising her three children, Charlotte Bouery moved to Monaco in 2005 to focus her career on real estate.


A graduate of the French school for new communications professions (EFAP), Philippe de Boucaud completed his academic training in cultural management at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), then in international relations in Buenos Aires. He then turned simultaneously to the art market in New York and event communications in Paris. However, Philippe took a six-year break for adventure, sailing the oceans on all types of sailing boats. These circumstances led him, for example, to finance and install electricity in Soweto; to collaborate with Paul-Émile Victor's teams; and to join President Carlos Menem's Cabinet. A man of networks, Philippe now heads the BeCLAM influence & Culture Office, helping private and public companies to develop their communications strategy, digital marketing, crisis management, lobbying and change management, using art as a lever for performance. A cultural agitator, TV program producer, fair creator and exhibition curator, this incorrigible entrepreneur has also set up a wine trading company! 


Richard Houbron is co-Founder partner of the Paris-based multi-family office: Experts en patrimoine. He is Professor of Finance at the École d'Économie de la Sorbonne. His professional career began in investment banking, where he worked for fifteen years in the Technology - Media - Telecommunications (TMT) sector, before becoming an entrepreneur, looking after the wealth interests of his executive clients and their families.


After having strengthened its Board of Directors, the OceanoScientific association is enthusiastically and multi-skilledly committing itself to the 2024-2030 period, whose program will consist of three major actions: OceanoScientific Coral Reefs Expeditions 2023-2030; OceanoScientific eDNA* Expeditions 2023-2027; Tour MER & MÉTIERS 2023-2030 - Revealing the vocations of Tomorrow.


The next two weekly Wednesday newsletters from the OceanoScientific association will be devoted to what could be likened to a general policy statement.


In two parts, in the form of an interview reviewed and approved by the new Board of Directors, Yvan Griboval will set out: firstly, the main thrusts of CO2-free scientific exploration under sail over the next seven years, on Wednesday 17 January; secondly, the purpose of all OceanoScientific's actions, namely : to guide young people, and in particular high school and university graduates up to Bac + 3, towards the new professions of the Blue Economy generated by the imperative need to adapt to the consequences of global warming/ climate change.


*environmental DNA 


Cruising along the French Mediterranean coastline is a pure delight, especially when passing off the majestic Esterel massif, as in this image taken mid-afternoon on 27 December 2023. Photo OceanoScientific

Mercredi 10 janvier 2024
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