2021 Jan/08

Steering Committee for the AQUAECOs project within the LIENSs laboratory of La Rochelle Université

The LIENSs Laboratory of La Rochelle Université coordinates the AQUAECOs project (Improving the environmental quality of shellfish farming areas) in partnership with the Regional Shellfish farming Committee of Charente-Maritime and the Marine Protected Area of the Gironde Estuary and the Pertuis Sea. A steering Committee has brought together the project partners and members to present the initial progresses made.

The AQUAECOs project

The AQUAECOs project (La Rochelle Université / University of Bordeaux), funded by the Regional Shellfish farming Committee Charente-Maritime, the Marine Protected Area of the Gironde Estuary and the Pertuis Sea, the Charente-Maritime Department and the Region Nouvelle-Aquitaine, started in September 2018. The AQUAECOs project aims to characterise the quality of the coastal environment of the “Pertuis Breton and Pertuis d’Antioche” (France) with regard to pesticide and microplastic contamination and to determine their effects on the health of oysters and mussels. The final objective is to propose measures to mitigate the potential negative effects of these contaminants on the health of bivalves in consultation with local stakeholders and professionals in the shellfish farming industry. The project responds to an economic, environmental and integrated issue through environmental and laboratory research.

The progress of the project and the first results were presented and discussed during a steering committee at the end of 2020.

In the field and in the laboratory: a large-scale project

This project is based on 2 approaches:

– An experimental approach focusing on the study of the toxicity of microplastics and pesticides (selected and detected in the “Pertuis Charentais”) on mussels and oysters at different life stages (under controlled laboratory conditions).

– An environmental approach aiming at characterising the contaminations of the “Pertuis Charentais” coastline (Sèvre-Niortaise, Seudre and Charente) with pesticides and microplastics (water, sediment and biota) and their effects on the health of bivalves in shellfish farming areas.

The two approaches are complementary, the results of analyses carried out in the natural environment will be compared with the results of laboratory tests to confirm the potential effects of the contaminants. The AQUAECOs project has a budget of 740,000 euros (over 3 years) in order to carry out the studies necessary for a better understanding of the quality of shellfish growing areas.

Research at the service of shellfish growers

Exchanges between researchers and local actors will be encouraged throughout this applied research project on the environmental situation of the “Pertuis Charentais”. At the end of the project (2021),

knowledge transfer actions such as restitution workshop with the local authorities, local stakeholders, shellfish growers and farmers are planned in order to propose measures to reduce pollution. In this context, a steering committee was set up in June 2020, bringing together the project partners and several local stakeholders. The AQUAECOs project, directly integrated within the collaboration agreement between La Rochelle Université and the Marine Protected Area of the Gironde Estuary and the Pertuis Sea, is currently beginning its final year of study.

Microplastics, an invisible pollution

Within this project, the question of the effects of microplastics remains a source of concern. Invisible to the naked eye, these plastic microparticles are becoming increasingly present in marine and coastal environments. Through currents, winds and sunlight, microplastics age in the ocean and become laden with persistent organic pollutants, creating a toxic complex that is still poorly understood today. The AQUAECOs project will provide additional knowledge on this subject.

Website of the project: https://aquaecos.recherche.univ-lr.fr/

Arno Bringer