A woman at the coral’s bedside

Her eyes are lagoon blue, but her gaze is as dark as the abyss. Laetitia Hédouin, a coral specialist and mother of a 5-year-old boy, is constantly asking herself the question: What kind of planet are we leaving our children? Then, like a ricochet in the ocean: What children are we leaving our planet? the scientist at the Centre de recherches insulaires et observatoire de l’environnement (Criobe/CNRS), in French Polynesia, sounds the alarm on the white death of coral. In addition to her laboratory research, anchored in Moorea’s bewitching Opohunu Bay, this committed 40-year-old has planted an impressive coral forest in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. She also sponsors Coral Gardeners, an association founded by teenagers specializing in coral cuttings. And she advises the Polynesian Institute of Biomimicry, which offers sensory dives on the coral reef. Laetitia Hédouin also took part in the mission of the extreme divers Under the Pole III, during their coral inventory in Polynesia. Other examples of her commitment: she organizes conferences and debates for the general public, gives talks in schools and raises awareness among lagoon guides. In her wake, she leaves a message of hope in the face of the climate emergency and the collapse of biodiversity: “There’s still time to change course and preserve coral, humanity’s common good. 90% of coral reefs in Asia-Pacific could be seriously damaged by 2050, mainly due to climate change, warns the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Together with tropical forests, coral reefs are the richest and most productive ecosystems on the planet. Their role in the oceanic food chain is vital for human beings: a third of marine species live there.


Eléonore Henry de Frahan, photographer
Aude Raux, editor