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In the Calanques near Marseille, the scourge of illegal boat rentals – Sciences et Avenir

Illegal leases, mooring violations, shipwrecks: The Calanques National Park, a protected natural gem near Marseille, is prone to sea overpopulation, which affects the tranquility of the place, the safety of users, but above all, its biodiversity.

On the Mediterranean Sea and its shades of blue, near the rocks and pines that make up the wonderful scenery of the park, sometimes dozens of ships follow each other in the same place or enter the bathing areas.

During the summer and during long weekends in the spring, those rents increase, causing disruption to the “calm” that also comes with security risks, Nicolas Chardin, the park’s deputy director, ruefully told AFP.

Because some of these boats are being rented illegally, despite the strict rules of the Calanques National Park, which make boat rentals by a few dozen professional rental companies subject to approval and limit rentals between individuals to five times a year.

Violation of this rule “endangers human life” and damages the environment, “hydrocarbons seep into the sea” and waste is scattered, in the event of a shipwreck, as happened twice in a few days at the beginning of summer, Mr. A. Chardin regrets.

Damage repairs are the responsibility of the owners of the ships, who may also be brought before the Court of Marseilles. On April 4, two boat rental companies were fined €5,000 and paid €3,000 in damages.

Bathing in the Calanque de Sougiton in Marseille, June 26, 2022 (AFP/Archive – Nicolas TUCAT)

Unauthorized professional landlords face up to two years in prison, a €100,000 fine and vessel confiscation.

“Environmental damage is now being taken into account by magistrates,” the Marseille prosecutor’s office told AFP. Since the park’s creation in 2012, the court has adopted a criminal policy “unique and adapted to this protected area”, with the creation of a “calanque task force”.

Result: The number of annual procedures for this aspect of illegal renting has increased “from about ten in 2019 and 2020 to 19 in 2021,” according to the prosecution.

– “Difficult” fight –

To limit the damage, patrols regularly conduct inspections that “verify mooring, fishing and commercial activities” for transporting tourists by boat, the National Park said.

But the fight is “difficult” because “they are often very punctual users of the sea” who sometimes ignore “basic rules of navigation,” a spokesman for the maritime prefecture told AFP ruefully.

“For us, having an approval is just an advantage,” said Jérôme Bonnier, manager of boat rental company Easy Rent Boat.

“In Marseille, as elsewhere, there are tenants who are a little wild or talk nonsense with customers,” he notes. “But the annual renewal of the park’s license shows trust” in his company, he said.

If eight out of ten boats visiting the National Park are charter boats, it’s impossible to quantify regular visits to the calanques, Mr. Chardin explains.

En Wow Creek, June 30, 2015 (POOL/AFP/Archive - BORIS HORVAT)En Wow Creek, June 30, 2015 (POOL/AFP/Archive – BORIS HORVAT)

Only an aerial surveillance system would let us know “that there are X hundred ships in the park at time T,” he explains: “We can put eco-meters on the trails, but not at sea.”

Some very touristic creeks, such as En Wau, are already banned from mooring to reduce their attendance. “Over time, we will be able to float less and less on the calanques,” Bonier predicts.

Franck, a CRS and lifeguard in charge of monitoring a creek near Marseille, explained to AFP in early July his role of monitoring boats at buoy level “about 300 meters from the beach” to ensure proper wetting, among other things. .

“We have to anchor in the sand, not in the vegetation,” he recalled, referring to posidonia, an endemic Mediterranean plant important to the marine ecosystem but now endangered.

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