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Concarneau Marine Station © MNHN - Agnès Iatzoura

The Concarneau Marine Station History

The Concarneau Marine Station is the oldest station in the world still in activity. This centre dedicated to research on the marine environment, teaching, expertise, dissemination of knowledge and collections is among the 13 sites of the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle.


Created in 1859 by Victor Coste, Professor at the Collège de France and Physician of the Empress Eugenie, under the name of Vivier-Laboratoire, the Concarneau Marine Station is the oldest marine station in the world still active.

It occupies a privileged location in Concarneau on the south coast of Finistère near the Glénan archipelago and a unique set of high-productivity maritime estuaries. The fishing port of Concarneau until very recently was an exceptional source of supply because of the diversity of the areas exploited and the techniques used.


The station in 1859

The station in 1859

Victor Coste (1807-1873) - Founder of the Laboratory

Victor Coste (1807-1873) - Founder of the Laboratory © Le Grand

Dedicated, originally, to the breeding of marine animals such as oysters, lobsters and fish, the station quickly became a very active scientific and intellectual centre.

Flatfish breeding trechniques were developed at the end of the last century (Fabre-Domergue and Bietrix, 1880-1185), as were fundamental experiments on experimental embryology (Chabry, 1887). Comparative biochemistry then took off in Concarneau with Forkin and Roche. The characterisation of thyroid hormone owes much to the work of Roche in the 1950s. Under the leadership of Yves Le Gal (director of the station from 1968 to 2005), marine biotechnologies developed at the station with fundamental research on the enzymes and hormones of marine organisms with applications in different agri-food or health fields.

Today, research at the station has diversified.
From 1996 to 2005, the station was managed by the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle in consultation with the College de France. Since 2005, it has been managed entirely by the Muséum and, in 2013, integrates the Marine Station Service of the Muséum.

M Fabre-Domergue (1861-1940)

M. Fabre-Domergue (1861-1940) © Le Grand

Renovation of the station

The station covers about 2,700 m2 (excluding the spawning grounds) spread over three levels and two building wings. The recent renovation of the station was carried out in two phases allowing a rehabilitation of the spawning grounds, the creation of new rooms and the acquisition of scientific equipment.

The first renovation phase, from 1999 to 2002, was the rehabilitation and use of the protection structures (spawning grounds).
The spawning grounds cover an area of approximately 850 m2. This work to protect the station against the sea required a complete renovation. The operating buildings were demolished as well as concrete cantilevers. The initial desire was to give these spawning grounds a configuration as close as possible to the original one (1859).

In parallel, a conference room, a classroom and practical work room were equipped. The compliance of the station (electricity, fluids, heating, fire safety, new generator, premises at risk) started and ended with the second work phase (2014-2017).
Restructuring operations over the two periods led to the creation of new experimental rooms (mesocoms), animal housing, a quarantine room, and so on.

Finally, the acquisition of a SEM / FEG field-effect scanning electron microscope and a high-throughput sequencer completed this transformation.

Extension of the Marinarium

Created in 1972 at the instigation of Yves Le Gal, the Concarneau Marinarium is an area open to the public, which hosts a permanent (living collection) and a temporary exhibition.
It expanded between 1999 and 2002 with the addition of the "Grand aquarium", a circulation corridor and a technical room (heat pump, recycling, filtration). The museography was redesigned and a historical space was opened.

Currently, a renovation phase of the tour circuit is being studied.