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Yachts are harming the ecosystem in the Mediterranean

Yachts are harming the ecosystem in the Mediterranean

More and more big, luxurious, and many to anchor in the Mediterranean: recreational boats seriously damage the ecosystem by plowing the seabed, pushing authorities to supervise their anchorage. At the bottom of the water, in a cloud of gray particles, an anchor plows tens of meters of posidonia, a marine plant shelter of dozens of aquatic species. In about thirty seconds, hundreds of years of underwater life go up in smoke.

This striking image, filmed in Corsica as part of an official campaign by Andromède Océanologie, a specialized research bureau, sums up the problem: by throwing anchor in the posidonia meadows, the yachts ravage this unique natural environment lining the Mediterranean bottoms, between the surface and 40 meters deep.

Home to a plethora of species, these endemic plants with long green leaves are an ecological treasure, comparable according to scientists at coral reefs or tropical forests. “Once destroyed, the herbarium does not rebuild,” says Pierre Boissery, in charge of the file at the Water Agency in Marseille. The aquatic plant, a protected species, grows only a few centimeters a year and blooms only a few times a decade, but does a lot of work. The “mat” that it forms on several meters of depth offers a shelter to the baby fishes, captures the carbon, produces oxygen, its leaves limit the erosion due to the waves …

The posidonia, “it’s the forest of the Mediterranean, and the mooring of yachts is like passing bulldozers in the middle,” insists Marc Verlaque, a researcher at the Mediterranean Institute of Ocean Sciences in Aix-Marseille University. Boaters “want to anchor in the most beautiful corners of the world.It is very nice on the surface”, but below, it is “a disaster,” he denounces.

In addition to the impact of the anchor, the yacht’s chain, which can be 200 meters long, plows the bottoms according to the winds and movements of the ship. “It’s a shameful ecological disaster in the Mediterranean,” says Florian Houlon, of Andromeda Oceanology, citing for example a 30% decline in five years posidonia meadows in the Gulf of Antibes. “As underwater, that it does not show, for a long time no one took the subject seriously.Everyone takes it like a lawn,” he continues.

Cannes Film Festival, Monaco Grand Prix, creeks in Corsica, hundreds of luxury boats skate these summer meetings, reinforcing the local pressure. “There is a race for the biggest yacht, and in season, they are almost all in the French Mediterranean,” says Houlon. Boats “destroying a heritage (common) for the good of a few people,” he said.

The authorities have decided to seize the subject, and are preparing to supervise the anchorage of the boats of more than 24 meters. “All moorings have an impact on the posidonia, but there is a real threshold” for the latter, says AFP Stanislas Gentien, spokesman for the Maritime Prefecture of the Mediterranean. After a “pedagogy phase”, mooring zones will be determined department by department, and should come into effect in the summer of 2020. To enforce the ban by skippers, and their clients often very fortunate, a penalty up to a maximum of one year in prison and 150,000 euros fine is provided.

“In most cases, boats can anchor next to the herbarium”, without reducing the number of sites, Pierre Boissery said. More fixed anchor points could emerge, with the key to economic activity. To achieve “one of the most protective regulations of the Mediterranean coast”, however, he calls for vigilance on the local implementation of the new rules.

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