An Engineer with the French Ministry of Environment and a professional diver, his career and hobbies revolve around protecting and enjoying nature’s underwater treasures.
The judges selected Franck’s splendid photo because it depicts two of the main environmental factors projected to influence the fisheries of the Pacific under climate change – the impact of the ocean on the coast and changes to the coral reefs that support so many of the fish harvested by coastal communities.
The winning picture was taken in Wallis. Franck Mazeas and his friends went out for a swim. « We knew about this surfing spot. We had no surfboards and bodysurfed instead. I had my camera with me, as I often do, and decided to enjoy the wave from another perspective. It was not easy to keep still and take the shot under such movement!» The powerful wave relentlessly breaks over the coral reef; the coral is alive here, and colourfully sustains the life of many small and bigger creatures.
Franck grew up in Brest (Brittany, France), a town that lives by and for the ocean. He started diving as a boy with his father: “Scuba diving was not as accessible in the 70s as it is today. My encounter with the underwater world was in apnoea, holding my breath. My first scuba experience came in 1985. I was hooked and have not stopped since.”
Franck studied oceanography in Brest for two years. As an intern he participated in marine research projects in French Polynesia (C.R.I.O.B.E, C.N.R.S.), after which he returned to France to study further. He trained as an engineer, specialising in the management of environmental impact surveys.
For six years, Franck Mazeas worked in Brest, and consulted for the town and for neighbouring harbours on a variety of wastewater management, pollution and environment issues. “When a harbour needs to be dredged, the question arises as to where the sediment will be deposited, and therefore of its degree of pollution, and of the nature of the sea bottom; that sometimes requires diving for sampling and taking pictures.”
In 2001, Franck was appointed State Engineer and started working for the French Ministry of Environment, where he still serves. He directs the IFRECOR (French Initiative for Coral Reefs) Programme in Guadeloupe, French Caribbean. “The coral polyp is a very plain organism, yet it has a vital role in all tropical economies. The mangrove, sea grass and coral ecosystems are dependant upon one another, and support the marine resources that many populations depend upon.”
“Climate change is not just a future or theoretical problem. Its impact is already visible. The splendid colours of coral are due to the presence of microalgae called zooxanthellae, which provide 75% of the coral’s food. When the water temperature rises above 30°C, the zooxanthellae produce toxic matter and get evicted by the coral. The coral is bleached and within a month, it starves to death. In 2005, in Guadeloupe, the water remained above 30°C for 6 months; 50% of the coral was bleached, half of which died.”
Franck Mazeas heard about SPC’s photo competition via IFRECOR colleagues in Noumea. His picture will be on the cover of SPC’s upcoming publication, titled ‘Vulnerability of fisheries and aquaculture in the Pacific to climate change.’ Compiling the work of 70 scientists over more than two years, it will describe the projected changes to the atmosphere and ocean, assess the impact of these changes on the ecosystems that support fisheries, evaluate the consequences for the abundance and distribution of fish and shellfish, identify the implications for local economies and food security, and recommend measures to enable communities and industry to adapt to help maintain the vital contributions of fisheries and aquaculture to the lives of people in the Pacific.