The French research vessel, Tara, which aims to study marine microorganisms and their key role in the ocean ecosystem, has dropped its anchor in Senegal before it returns to Europe.
The mission also aims to educate and raise awareness of ocean issues among the general public during its stopovers .
Romain Troublé, General Manager of the Tara Ocean Foundation, says we need to establish a new relationship with the oceans.
"We are seeing that we are reaching the limits of everything, we are fishing too much, the ecosystem shows it. There is no more thiof (white grouper, ed) here for a few years, we pollute too much, you only have to see the port of Dakar to understand it. We have to become aware of our relationship between the land and the sea, we always believe that the sea is big enough to take everything and big enough for us to take everything from it, and we see the limits of that today."
With its six sailors and a team of several scientists of various nationalities, the mission called "Microbiomes" took samples to understand the poorly known functioning of micro-organisms, largely invisible to the naked eye but nevertheless essential, and their interactions with the climate and pollution.
Baye Cheikh Mbaye, Senegalese researcher-oceanologist, believes there is a lack of means and data from Senegalese research institutes and "Tara's mission" fills a gap.
"The Senegalese research institutes face a lack of resources, the equipment does not always work, they rarely go out to the sea, so they have less data. This will also help to provide them with observation data on the microbiome and plankton so they can know the state of our seas. And from there, it will allow them to work, to continue to know what has changed since the last observations."
During the African part of the mission, which involved 42 research institutes from all over the world, special attention was paid to rivers such as the Congo or the Gambia, and their influence on biodiversity and pollution by micro-plastics.
The mission will be on the Casamance River (southern Senegal) between September 11 and 19, said a spokeswoman for Tara Ocean.