French anchorage laws are to change for yachts over 24m in order to protect endangered marine plant species, most notably Posidonia. The new regulations are due to be in place for the 2020 yachting season in France. The ECPY, spearheaded by its president Thierry Voisin, is in consultation with the necessary authorities as a means of ensuring that any ratified regulatory changes will not be draconian to the extent that they cause the yachting industry in France, and the communities that it supports, irreparable damage.
Posidonia is an underwater plant, or ‘seagrass’, found growing in the Mediterranean Sea between the shoreline and 25m depth, and is believed to be one of the most important sources of oxygen provided to coastal waters. Many scientists assert that Posidonia meadows are decreasing due to coastal activity, including the discharge of nutrient-rich waters, rainwater full of sediments and boating activities, such as anchoring.
“To date, France has not been enforcing any rules relating to superyacht anchorages and protected marine plant species,” explains Voisin. “Rules relating to the protection of Posidonia are already being enforced in Spain and, as a result of pressure from the European Union, similar rules will be enforced in France for the 2020 season. If the rules in France resemble those in Spain, it may lead to a number of arrests and, for repeat offenders, significant fines. There is also the risk that an arrest because of anchorage restrictions may also lead to further issues in the event that the vessel in question doesn’t have all its documentation in order.”
The changes to French anchorage law were originally announced on 3rd June 2019 in accordance with Prefectoral Decree No. 123/2019, which establishes the general framework for the anchoring and stopping of vessels in the French inland and territorial waters of the Mediterranean. However, importantly, there is yet to be any confirmation on exactly how the new laws will be applied.
“Yachts over 24m will not be allowed to drop their anchors into the seagrass. Seagrass, typically, takes around 60 years to grow and reach maturity and is, therefore, sensitive to disruption,” continues Thierry. “The ECPY fully supports the need to protect this vital marine resource. However, we consider current proposals about the enforcement of the new laws to be unacceptable. We are working closely with the Prefecture Maritime Mediterranee to create a solution that works for all.”
The challenge, according to Voisin, is to change attitudes from “everything is allowed, except that which is forbidden” to “everything is forbidden, except that which is allowed”. The hope is that the law changes will not a constitute a total ban on yachts being in the protected areas, provided they are moored in such a way that does not disturb or damage the seagrass. SuperyachtNews will provide updates on the changes as and when they are made available. ECPY is the only yachting professional body negotiating with the French authorities together with GEPY (the professional yacht crew association).
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