Young Chinese researchers aboard Tara

© Agathe Roullin / Tara Expeditions Foundation

15 March 2018

In Sanya, 2 young Chinese researchers came aboard Tara to participate in the sampling sessions planned for the southern part of Hainan Island. Unfortunately neither the newcomers nor the Taranauts could go diving, because the necessary permits did not reach the Sanya authorities in time. But even without collecting samples, the researchers’ presence on board was an opportunity to discuss many things and lay the foundations for future cooperation.

Having received research permits from the Chinese authorities in Beijing, the Taranauts hoped that the participation of local researchers would facilitate getting local authorizations. But the arrival of the 2 Chinese scientists from the China Coral Reef Research Center was not enough to speed up the process of obtaining the regional permits necessary for sampling around the island of Hainan.

Huang Xueyong, senior lecturer, and Chen Biao, PhD. student in bio-geography, were appointed by Kefu Yu Yu from Guangxi Local University to assist the Tara Foundation and Captain Samuel Audrain with administrative procedures, and also to work with the Tara scientists during dives. Although these missions could not be fulfilled, the 2 young men will nonetheless have an excellent memory of their time aboard the schooner.

Huang: “This is my first time on a boat like Tara. In China we have oceanographic vessels, but they are much smaller and don’t have sails! We were very well-received aboard Tara, and we had a lot of discussions with the scientists. I learned about what everyone does, their specialties. I learned a lot of things and got lots of ideas!”

Chen: “I immediately felt at home. Everyone was very friendly, and Marion’s cooking is excellent! Maybe even better than at home. If Tara needs us again, we would come back without any hesitation! ”
12.Photo_carambar_enfants@Agathe_Roullin Huang Xueyong et Chen Biao à bord de Tara avec l’équipage © Agathe Roullin / Tara Expeditions Foundation


Why did you choose to do research?

Chen : “I grew up near the water and I love the ocean. It’s essential to our equilibrium and our happiness, and the ocean fills our plates. Not everyone is familiar with the ocean, but we all need it. That’s why we must educate people through science, to protect our ocean. In recent years, the Chinese government has really been trying to pay attention, especially with the creation of protected areas. But all this takes time.”

Huang : “Only one of them, Sanya Bay. We go diving there to study the coral ecosystem. It’s difficult to assess the health of the corals there because of the dense traffic: It’s an area open to the sea, with many yachts and fishing boats passing through. Inevitably the coral is affected by all this activity. Moreover, in summer it’s extremely hot here. The coral can not necessarily withstand these climatic variations and is starting to turn white.”

Have you ever visited the 3 sites you chose here for the Tara Pacific mission?

Chen : ” Seulement le premier, dans la baie de Sanya. On y a plongé pour étudier l’écosystème corallien. C’est difficile d’évaluer l’état de santé des coraux là-bas, car il y a beaucoup de passage : c’est une zone ouverte sur la mer, par laquelle transitent de nombreux bateaux de plaisance et de pêche… Mais forcément, le corail se trouve impacté par cette activité. De plus, en été, il fait trop chaud ici. Le corail ne peut pas forcément encaisser ces variations climatiques et commence à blanchir. ”

And on the question of permits?

Chen : “There were administrative errors, some false leads. The targeted sites were in military areas, which complicated the situation because it also required the authorization of the army. We managed to get the national license, but we ran out of time to obtain the go-ahead at the local level. If Tara could have stayed a little longer, I’m sure we’d finally have had some good news. ”

Propos recueillis par Agathe Roullin

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