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OceanoScientific Coral Reefs
Expeditions 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...

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

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 Expedition Coral Reefs Tunisia 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.

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 Expedition Coral Reefs Tunisia 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.

Wednesday 13 March 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

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 (Ifremer). 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

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

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

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