From an article published by the Calanques National Park on 4/7/2018
In the fall of 2015, on intelligence, the gendarmerie services are informed of acts of people poaching with impunity for several years in the waters of the Calanques national Park. After two years of investigation, conducted by the Gendarmerie Maritime and the National Police, four people are referred to the Criminal Court of Marseille for, in particular, fishing in prohibited area.
This is the first case of this importance to be judged in France.
Since 2012, the Calanques National Park has been working to protect an exceptional land and marine heritage. At sea, this action includes the creation, monitoring and surveillance of seven no-take zones, prohibited to any form of fishing, whether recreational or professional. Respect for these no-take areas by professional fishermen as well as by recreational fishermen has considerably increased the number and quantity of fish present in the heart of the National Park and restored a productive environment.
No-fishing zones constitute a biodiversity “bank” that the defendants looted, to the detriment of the effort made by all. Among the target species are significant quantities of groupers, an emblematic species of the Mediterranean, protected internationally and banned from fishing until 2023.
The Calanques National Park will seek compensation for the damage caused to the territory, the facts constituting an infringement of its mission of environmental protection as well as its brand image and its reputation.
The Calanques National Park will also seek compensation for ecological damage, estimated, according to a rigorous scientific method, to up to 450,000 euros. If the Tribunal grants the request of the National Park, this sum will be allocated to the “repair” of the impacted environment, through the reinforcement of the management, monitoring and surveillance measures of the no-take zones.
The Calanques National Park expects that the defendants open their eyes to the damage they have caused to an exceptional natural heritage that is internationally renowned, in areas that are spaces for nature discovery, healing and tranquility to the benefit of all inhabitants and visitors.
A widespread plague in Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas
Poaching affects a large number of Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean, with significant potential damage for those that contain highly protected or strictly protected areas (where access, fishing and other removals are prohibited). Indeed, science has proven that if these areas are well positioned and sized, and if they are effectively monitored, they produce invaluable results: they restore the biomass and structure of fish assemblages and restore the resilience of ecosystems. A recent review of 25 MPAs in the Mediterranean – The Science of Marine Protected Areas, Mediterranean version – shows that in highly protected areas, fish are 4 times heavier, larger, more numerous and more diverse. This abundance of life can also be exported out of these highly protected areas and repopulate adjacent areas.
But since conservation measures in MPAs often target endangered or protected species that have acquired a high commercial value, the return of these species fuels the greed of poachers.
These highly protected areas are therefore only effective if appropriate regulations are put in place and respected. Public awareness actions are then essential along with efficient monitoring and control. When offenses are detected or suspected, the most effective MPAs are those that manage to cooperate with relevant intervention at sea services as well as with the court, so that examplary sanctions are pronounced. To go further, do not hesitate to consult the practical guide of the MedPAN collection “Surveillance and enforcement of regulations in Mediterranean MPAs” published in 2015.