In Brittany, a diving club awakens students from a maritime high school to safeguarding the seabed

In Brittany, a diving club awakens students from a maritime high school to safeguarding the seabed

In Brittany, the Trébeurden diving club is introducing students from the Paimpol maritime high school to underwater life and safety at sea. A first.

The blowing of the wind rings the masts of the ships in the port of Trébeurden (Côtes-d'Armor). Nothing to slow down the talkative group which is active a few steps from the hold. “Check that you have all your equipment: fins, mask, weight belt and bottle,” says Adélaïde Thomas to her audience. Seven professional marine electromechanics (EMM) baccalaureate students at the Pierre-Loti maritime high school in Paimpol listen attentively. All of them are destined for the many maritime professions aboard fishing or commercial vessels and will find themselves confronted, in their activity, with the question of safeguarding the seabed.

The last checks carried out, the sports instructor from the Diving Activities Center (CAP), 29 years old, embarks with the small team and three instructors on a boat, heading to the spot for the afternoon. The course taught is not an ordinary session. For three days, the first year students will dive six times to learn the basics of diving and validate their level 1. Most have already come for their second year baptism. Passionate about scuba diving, Adélaïde Thomas has imagined a new type of program for this audience who, surprisingly, know little about the seabed and their ecosystems. However, in France, more than 500,000 people work in the maritime sector.

Volunteering and free

“The goal is to introduce these future users of the oceans to what is under the water and invite them to take care of this environment,” argues the young woman. In a Breton region marked by oil spills, plastic balls washing up on beaches or accidental captures of dolphins… the argument hits home.

The project, unique in its kind, began in 2022. It benefits from a grant of more than 100,000 euros from the European Fund for Maritime Affairs, Fisheries and Aquaculture. Financing provided by the Banque Populaire, allowing participants to benefit from the courses almost free of charge. Because the three modules would normally cost more than 3,000 euros.

The excitement of the crossing to the place of discovery gives way to concentration. Pairs and trios in wetsuits prepare, help each other and review safety instructions before the big jump into the English Channel, which that day was 12°C. “When I breathe, I float, when I breathe, I sink,” recalls Gabriel, in full discussion with Adélaïde Thomas, his accompanist during the course. The slender high school student had not been able to participate in the previous year's session; it therefore starts from zero. “Diving allows you to learn new things and is a plus on your CV,” he appreciates. “I really want to know the seabed better,” says Auguste at the other end of the motorboat, before jumping into the water. Same argument with Tom, who wants to work in the merchant navy and is counting on scuba diving to help him “discover the marine world”. Each internship is voluntary, 60 of the 160 students from this Paimpol high school responded to the call.

Change practices

Bubbles escape from the places chosen by the divers for their thirty-minute expedition in this Pirates Cove, typical of the Pink Granite Coast with its strange jagged rocks. On board, Jacques Lelay, the boat's captain, keeps an eye on things. This underwater videographer worked for thirty years in the merchant navy. “At the time, we were not aware and threw everything overboard, bottles, oil cans…” regrets the explorer with bitterness. He can only appreciate the training imagined by Adélaïde Thomas, convinced that “young people will change our practices”. Behind him, a seal pokes its nose.

When it was time to get out of the water, the high school students were smiling, even if some of them's ears suffered a little. “We saw sea slugs, spiders, old commons,” comments Ethan before listing his technical learnings. Adélaïde Thomas continues the inventory, between abalone, starfish and shrimp. “Our objective now aims to develop the program and change mentalities,” she emphasizes, before setting a new appointment the next morning for new aquatic explorations according to the precepts of Commander Cousteau: “We like this who amazed us, and we protect what we love. »

Recipes for success

  • A regular partnership The school and the diving center have forged strong links to be able to carry out this project thanks to the regular visits of the sports instructor.
  • A comprehensive approach A discovery in several sessions, which allows not only to touch on the subject, but to completely raise students' awareness and allow them to become professional.
  • A practical project A practical approach that adds to theory, more effective in convincing high school students.

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