The seagrass changing anchorage regulations and the way we interact with the environment
In 2021, regulations to protect marine environments along the French Riviera will be in place, most notably with anchoring restrictions in Posidonia meadows. The impact of yachts anchoring, particularly yachts over 24m, has dramatically contributed to the destruction of coastal marine environments in the last ten years. Large yachts hauling up anchors effectively plough the seabed destroying Posidonia meadows in an unsustainable way. It is thought that Posidonia meadows in the Mediterranean have decreased irreparably by 33.5% in the last fifty years, with physical damage from yachts contributing significantly.
Posidonia is a long-lived and slow growing species, typically taking 60 years to grow and reach maturity.
Posidonia meadows are abundant marine aquatic plants in the Mediterranean. The plants, or “seagrass”, grow from shallow waters to up to 40m deep and are considered by scientists as among the most representative and important Mediterranean shoreline ecosystems. Posidonia meadows play a number of key functions for coastal ecosystems: they produce and export large amount of organic matter and oxygen, form complex ecosystems supporting a high level of biodiversity, represent areas of refuge and nursery for fish and invertebrates, reduce sedimentation and stabilize the seabed reducing coastal erosion.
Posidonia is a protected species in France and at European level, but previously only within Marine Protected Areas was it prohibited to anchor within these meadows. Now, it is prohibited to anchor in “an area corresponding to a habitat of protected marine plant species when this action is likely to affect it”. Specific anchorage zones along the French Riviera impacted by these regulation changes include the Baie des Anges in Nice, Rade de Villefranche and Pointe de l’Aiguille to Port de Mandelieu-La Napoule. Restrictive anchorage regulations protecting Posidonia meadows are already enforced in Spain.
Going forward, yachts are being encouraged to act in an environmentally respective way. Precautions such as anchoring exclusively in sandy areas, searching for meadow locations online, and hauling anchors vertically can all help limit the environmental damage caused.