French research vessel on three year voyage stops in Maldives

French climate research vessel Tara Oceans arrived in Hulhumale’ today after an unnerving journey from Mumbai, a journey “rerouted close to India to avoid the risk of pirates in international waters”, according to scientist Celine Dimier-Hugueney.

Tara’s passengers and crew, consisting of five scientists, five crew members and television media, are stopping off in Maldives as part of a three year voyage around the world researching previously unknown and crucial marine ecosystems.

One of the main aims of the expedition is to look at the basis of the oceans food chain, phytoplankton, by “comparing the biodiversity of phytoplankton with previous expeditions to look at change according to pressures such as pollution and climate change” explains Celine.

Tara’s previous expeditions include ocean exploration in the Arctic, Antarctica and the seas around Patagonia, Greenland and South Georgia.

The current three year voyage began in 2009, a journey through the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, across the Atlantic, down to Antarctica, across the Pacific, up through the Indo-Pacific Region to Russia, Alaska and the Arctic, before heading back to Europe in 2012.

The voyage is managed by Tara Expeditions’ team and a scientific consortium, including major international laboratories, led by the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL). Like the previous expeditions, it will sail under the auspices of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP).

Tara Oceans will host two events during its stay in Male’: a showing of the documentary “The End of the Line”, the worlds’ first major documentary about the devastating effect of overfishing, followed by a debate (in English) on April 8th, and a lecture on their current 3 year worldwide scientific expedition (in English) on April 9th. Both events will take place at 8:15pm at Aminiya School, in the big hall, on Chandhanee Magu.

Kate Wilson is a marine biologist with the Environment Protection Agency (EPA).