There are heroes, such as Alban Michon an explorer who crossed the Arctic ice on foot. But, in the heart of France, lies a different type of hero. Their courage and their actions are considerable, since they at the best of their abilities, clean the coasts of the Mediterranean, a Herculean task. These heroes are Laurent Lombard, Pascal Calmels and Joko Pelletier. Three friends, underwater pear hunters or freedivers, but above all, lovers of the sea. This trio meet regularly to bring up coastal waste in PACA, they have left their spear guns and are now waste hunters.
They usually immortalize their clean ups through various videos they post on social media. This footage they post is a true testimony of the critical state of the coasts. Some of their videos went viral on social networks. This was the case, particularly for a shocking sequence, the images speak for themselves, the video has been viewed more than three million times. below a copy of the video on youtube.
Through this approach, they have found the support of some local elected officials, like the mayor of Cannes, but also legendary characters related to the world of diving, such as Jean-Pierre Stella, director and former arm Falco's right ( Falco was himself the right hand of Jacques Cousteau, ed note).
These waste collection operations led them to create the association “Operation Mer Propre”. Jean-Pierre Stella sponsors the association and regularly joins their adventures.
We interviewed Laurent Lombard after a cleaning on Théoule-sur-Mer during which we could take the photos illustrating this article.
Why did you make this first video shot in 2015?
It was not my first video, but it was the one that made the buzz in the spring just before the Cannes Film Festival. More than 3 million views in a few days! I simply wanted to warn once again about the dramatic situation of the bay of Cannes.
Was there a before and after this video for you? Mobilization, following the buzz on social networks, has it increased? Did you feel an increased interest in your movement?
Of course, there was a before and after with this video. In addition to the buzz, many local, national and even international media have taken up the subject. For the first time, we could no longer deny the pollution of the Bay of Cannes and the Mediterranean in general. Subsequently, I obtained several meetings with the Cannes town hall to set up seabed cleaning operations.
How do local politicians react to your cleanup missions? Do they sometimes try to oppose it? Do they give you problems to carry out these missions?
The local elected officials did not see with a very good eye my underwater discoveries. As long as it did not show up, there was no problem ... Today, they changed their policy and some even became spearheads of the fight against this incivilities, like the current mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard. Elected officials are looking for solutions and it is also up to us to offer them. Today I will say that we work almost hand in hand because we all need each other to fight against waste at sea.
This summer, the Mediterranean was recognized as one of the most polluted seas. What is your opinion on this subject ?
Indeed it does not surprise me that the Mediterranean is one of the most polluted seas in the world. This is, in part, the result of its geographical configuration and, therefore, directly linked with the demography of the surrounding coasts. While in a limited number of places, such as the Bay of Cannes, it is possible to see a slight improvement due to local efforts, I generally find that the situation is getting worse. The decrease in the number of fish goes hand in hand with the increase in the amount of shattering plastic present in the water. The observation of this phenomenon this year has reached a record rate.
The future of the French Riviera is in the hands of local elected officials, what decision would you like to see them take?
Indeed, the ball is in the court of politicians because it is they who can profoundly change the situation, already by effectively fighting against incivility, because this is where the problem originates, but also by managing better. stormwater cleaning and treatment services. For example in Cannes there is a special service which cleans the storm water outlets where waste passes to end up at sea. This single service, based on the work of three agents and a truck, allows the collection of more XNUMX tonnes of waste per year in this network. That's twenty tons of waste less in the sea… These are measures similar to this one that all elected officials on the Côte d'Azur and around the Mediterranean should adopt. For me, now, the most important thing would be that public authorities treat the storm water network correctly and this can only be achieved by putting good political decisions into practice.
During cleaning, what are the reactions of passers-by when they discover all this waste? Does this allow you to awaken the awareness of local residents?
It is clear that during my voluntary cleaning operations, the reactions are unanimous. A mixture of disgust, revolt and a lot of questions too. I was thus able to create a network of friends who themselves act like me. Now everyone is raising awareness in their own way. But in the end it gives a lot of ideas and several of them have been taken up by neighboring municipalities. We even do common cleanings to join forces and many Facebook groups have been created in order to organize themselves better.
You created an association “Operation Mer Propre”, what are your expectations regarding the future of the association?
With the association “Opération Mer Propre”, we are more into citizen action and the launching of pure alerts. With the association, we will be able to move up a gear and work with the municipalities and private partners in order, of course, to clean the sea, but also to raise public awareness through stands highlighting existing solutions. We start, little by little, and we will observe how it all evolves. But I don't see how we could do without the will of people who want to fight for the environment.
What type of waste is most common for you? and the most surprising?
The most common waste, and also the most difficult to pick up, on land as under water, it is undeniably the cigarettes butts. It's a real scourge. A cigarette butt pollutes up to 500 liters of water because of its many industrial constituents. Plastic bags and bottles are also part of the top trio. Most surprisingly, it is the waste from consumer products that are starting to become fashionable in the trade and that we find a few weeks later at sea. It can be toys or product packaging. food for example ... Finally all this presence of waste is worrying because all these detritus should not be at sea but in garbage cans.
Do some finds sometimes make you smile?
The last find that really surprised me, and it's not an easy task to surprise me, it's a printer. Yes! A printer! Surely swung overboard by an unscrupulous boater.
We would like to thank Laurent Lombard and these crew Clean Sea for this article
Photos and article by Bam Bam Chris