A large strict marine reserve was just created within the Marine Protected Area (MPA) of the Agathoise coast managed by the city of Agde in France.

Covering an area of 310 ha and pentagonal in shape, the Roc de Brescou Marine Reserve is located less than 2 km off the coast of the island of Brescou, on the right-hand side of the seaside resort of Cap d’Agde. It has the status of a fishing cantonment with ministerial and maritime prefectoral orders for a renewable period of 6 years. Its regulations authorise navigation but prohibit all forms of professional or recreational fishing, scuba diving, anchoring of vessels and dredging, making it a strong protection zone.

The aim of the reserve is to strengthen the preservation of marine fishery resources (fish, crustaceans, molluscs…) and to ensure the protection of certain environments such as the coralligenous reefs off the island of Brescou. 46% of the coralligenous reefs in the entire marine protected area are thus included in the marine reserve. Rocky bottoms, soft substrates, deep artificial reefs are also present and sources of marine biodiversity. The aim is also to eventually achieve a “reserve effect” that allows the ressources and benefits of the marine reserve to be exported outside the reserve.

What makes it special? It is first of all the result of an association between the small-scale fishers of the Agde coast, who initiated the project with their prud’homie, and the city of Age which already manages the 6152 hectares of the protected marine area of the Agde coast with a Natura 2000 site status. All the small scale fishers who operate in the 3 nautical mile (5.5 km) zone have been involved and have been actors in the process from the beginning of the project. They were able to visit other similar Mediterranean sites (Côte Bleue Marine Park, Camargue Regional Nature Park in particular) and meet their counterparts in situ to get an idea of the benefits of a marine reserve, and then to set out in concrete terms on their ideal marine reserve.
It is also a patient and transparent endeavour of several years of consultation with other maritime users such as recreational fishers, professional or associative diving clubs, yachtsmen, and maritime authorities of course to define a well shared perimeter.

Informing, raising awareness, monitoring. By decision of the maritime administration, this marine reserve will (curiously) not be physically marked by buoys. The challenge will be to develop a computer application, free of charge, for all maritime users who will thus be able to find their way around at sea and access information on the reserve, the marine protected area in general or even the weather.

In the meantime, an information/awareness campaign for sea users will also be carried out by the Marine Protected Area team with, on land, more traditional tools such as leaflets, a brochure, information panels…but also through direct contact with users on land and especially at sea throughout the year, in accordance with our proximity management. Links will be developed with the Cap d’Agde harbour manager and his 4000 customers, leisure fishing, diving or yachting associations, boat hire companies, in order to raise awareness among these audiences… The maritime authorities of the State are in charge of control at sea and are already operational.

Ensuring scientific monitoring. The team of professional marine biologist divers of the MPA has already carried out an inventory of the fauna and flora and will monitor their evolution for the next 6 years. Small scale fishers will be involved as well as diving clubs for operations with an aim of participatory science, under the control of the Maritime Affairs.

The marine reserve is financially supported by Europe (via the Life Marha project) and by the Occitania / Pyrenees-Mediterranean Region.

Contact: Renaud Dupuy de la Grandrive renaud.dupuy@ville-agde.fr 0467946248