The Vendée-Arctic-les Sables d'Olonne skippers, who left France on July 4, will soon sail in subarctic waters, not far from Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. This international sailing competition navigates the same maritime route as the schooners of the brave French fishermen who came to fish for cod in Icelandic waters in the past, thus recalling a maritime history shared and cherished by our countries.
Today, as ever before, France and Iceland are united by a mutual fascination and confronted by common challenges. The Arctic is one of the important subjects for cooperation between our two countries. Iceland assumed the chairmanship of the Arctic Council in May 2019, the main intergovernmental cooperation forum for this region, in which France has had observer status since 2000. Sustainable development is placed at the heart of Iceland’s chairmanship program, that covers both the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the protection of the marine environment, as well as the well-being of the people and communities of the region. These priorities are also those of France, which is very much involved in scientific research in the Arctic, notably through the activities of the Paul-Emile Victor Institute.
The Arctic is one of the regions of the world that are particularly affected by global warming, which accelerates the melting of the ice cap and the permafrost, but also contributes to extreme weather events in the northern hemisphere as well as to disturbing changes in the ocean and cryosphere, as recently highlighted in the latest special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Ocean pollution is one of today’s main challenges. The protection of the Arctic marine environment is therefore one of the priorities shared by the French and Icelandic governments, both of whom are mobilized in the fight against ocean acidification and plastic pollution. The Arctic Council working group for the Protection of the Marine Environment (PAME) is developing a regional action plan against marine litter. As part of Iceland's chairmanship of the Arctic Council, an international scientific symposium on this subject, ArcticPlastics2020, is planned for on March 2-4, 2021, in Reykjavik. It should also be noted that the IMOCA Newrest-Art & Fenêtres sailboat, taking part in the Vendée-Arctic-Les Sables d'Olonne race, will map microplastics pollution in surface waters throughout the race.
By venturing into the tumultuous waters of the North Atlantic, the skippers of the Vendée-Arctic-Les Sables d'Olonne race remind us that the ocean, far from separating us, has always formed a very strong link between the two maritime nations that are France and Iceland.
Graham Paul, Ambassador of France in Iceland and Unnur Orradóttir-Ramette, Ambassador of Iceland in France
For further information, please consult https://www.imoca.org/fr