Parc national des calanques

Marine Protected Areas, a valuable ally for the resilience of biodiversity

Increasing the number of Marine Protected Areas, a priority to save marine biodiversity

For nearly 50 years, scientists have been warning of the damage to planet earth caused by pollution, over-consumption of raw materials and global warming. The oceans are among the areas most affected by these human activities. However, the ocean is a potential source of life for humanity (food, science, energy, economy), but it is above all the habitat of millions of species, of which barely 10% are studied.

It is necessary to take into account the oceans in the future of the earth. This is the objective of the creation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). MPAs are delimited maritime areas for which a protection objective has been set.

All MPAs are grouped into 6 categories, each with its own degree of protection:

1.a: Integral nature reserve: integral protection, area dedicated to scientific research
1.b: Wilderness Area: Integral Protection
2: National Park: Strong protection, but tourism allowed
3: Natural monument: Protection limited to a specific site
4: Habitat or Species Management Area: Protection on a particular species or ecosystem
5: Protected landscape/seascape: Low protection, anthropized environments
6: Managed natural resource protected area: Low protection, sustainable use of resources

Today, MPAs cover only 5.3% of the oceans’ surface, and only half of them are truly beneficial for biodiversity. In France, for example, 6.1% of the Mediterranean basin is covered by Marine Protected Areas, but barely 0.23% is subject to strong or integral protection (“One earth”, Joachim Claudet, 2020), we can cite the Calanques National Park (Bouches-du-Rhône), the Cerbère-Banyuls National Nature Reserve (Pyrénées-Orientales) or the Iroise Marine Nature Park (Brittany). Noted that 90% of the maritime economy is linked to the good state of the marine environment, and that the maritime economy in France accounts for 14% of GDP, i.e. €270 billion.

However, measures are being put in place which give hope for the preservation of marine life. The Corail Guardian association, for example, which has been working since 2015 to conserve corals around the world, has created a 629-hectare Marine Protected Area in the Komodo National Park in Indonesia. It is a sanctuary area where fishing and boat access are strictly forbidden and where corals are largely restored. Their actions are having an increasing impact, particularly thanks to their “Adopt a Coral” campaign, which enables them to finance coral restoration in areas where corals have been destroyed.

Due to its geographical location, France has a maritime area that alone is home to nearly 10% of the world’s marine biodiversity, i.e. nearly 13,000 endemic species and 20% of the atolls. It is the only EU nation with a presence in all the oceans, and therefore has a special responsibility to protect marine life.  Nationally, 23% of French waters are officially protected, but only 1.5% have full protection, a figure far from sufficient for the possible resilience of biodiversity in the oceans.

Indeed, the implementation of an ambitious ocean protection policy could, in the long term, have spectacular positive effects on biodiversity. A study published in the prestigious magazine Nature highlights in particular the extraordinary resilience of the oceans. Coupled with a reduction in greenhouse gases, strong protection measures would make it possible to restore marine life in just 30 years to its former abundance. This is a challenge that is largely possible to implement, especially as the more protected the areas are, the easier it is to control them. This resilience would not only allow for the restoration of biodiversity in the oceans, but would also bring significant benefits for tourism, fishing, scuba diving, etc.

To preserve the oceans and our beautiful blue planet, we are now obliged to create more Marine Protected Areas, which are currently too permissive, because it is through high level protection that we will see a resilience of marine life in the years to come.


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