Ocean Happy Places: La Côte Bleue Marine Park, France

Location: La Côte Bleue, Marseille, South of France
“La Côte Bleue” The Blue Coast is  the northern part of the Bay of Marseille located in the south of France. This beautiful mediterranean coastline spans thirty miles from the edge of city toward the Gulf of Fos in the West. Dramatic cliffs and stunning coves are the dominant terrain.
The Blue Coast encompasses 5 towns:
– Carro, located in the extreme west of the Blue Coast is probably one of the last small traditional fishing ports of French Mediterranean – Sausset-les-Pins port is one of the largest of the Blue Coast. A 4km cornice offers a magnificent panorama of the sea.
– Carry-le-Rouet is a charming small resort town. Its port is home for boaters and fishermen.
– Ensues-la-Redonne: That’s where the creeks of the Blue Coast start appearing. Small fishing ports and marina find shelter in the tiny creeks and striking coastal trails allows to enjoy a spectacular scenery.
– Le Rove: Although located inland the Rove has one of the largest coastal fronts of the Blue Coast. Its coastline is very steep and two beautiful coves provide shelter for boaters, in Niolon and la Vesse.

La Côte Bleue Marine Park Management
The “Côte Bleue Marine Park” (PMCB) management is operated by is a “mixed union” created in 1983 between the 5 local towns of Martigues, Sausset-les-Pins, Carry-le-Rouet, Ensuès-la-Redonne and le Rove, and the department of Bouches-du-Rhône and the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Region.
What is unique to this management is that professional local fishermen of the fishing “Prud’homies” of Marseille and Martigues (a local French Artisanal fishermen type of union) were involved in the project from the start and were actually instrumental in the creation of the second reserve. Associated with the National French Fishing Comities they represent a structure fully involved in the decision making and in the management of the marine park

The Marine Park
The park includes the two Fishing reserves of Carry-le-Rouet (in 1983) and Cap-Couronne (in 1996) of about 300 hectares. Within these two Protected areas, fishing in any form is prohibited as well as boat mooring, dredging and scuba diving. The Marine Park is the manager of a concession for the use of the dependencies of the maritime public domain of 9,873 hectares (2003) using 2 complementary tools: high protection zones and artificial reefs, with 5,000 cubic metres of production and protection modules, which have enabled habitats of heritage interest like meadows and reefs to be protected from illegal trawling.

When created the MPBC main objective was the conservation and the management of the local fishery resources which at the time were collapsing. The parks goal was to sustain and promote an economical development for traditional fishing industry of the various Blue Coast ports using small-scale gear and boats.
To this day the two reserves assigned objectives are to:
– increase the productivity of the marine environment through facilitating and protecting spawning and allowing an increase of the biomass concentration of marine species in the areas in order to sustain professional local atisanal fishing activities;
– rebuild natural habitats and achieve a healthy balance of their associated flora and fauna which is diverse and representative of the variety of the most common Mediterranean species;
– create Mediterranean marine environment protection and management awareness to the general public and provide educational programs to the local children attending the schools located within the park perimeter.
– carry out innovative experimental or exemplary actions in the above domains and conduct related scientific field research programs.
– monitor the two marine protected areas (Carry-le-Rouet and Cap Crown). It is a fundamental aspect of the park’s management. Remarkable results have been achieved due to a good implementation of the park rules and regulations. Despite the park limited resources, the four of their year long employees take turns as guards particularly in two marine protected areas. This surveillance is reinforced by additional seasonal staff during the summer time.

Highlights: Summer Activities
We can not recommend enough the park amazing staff and the great quality of these activities for all public from kids to elders ! The staff is incredibly knowledgeable but also super friendly and enthusiastic. They will provide you and your family with the best experience ever!
Free snorkeling discovery tours at Cap Rousset Beach, Carry-le-Rouet Reserve
Every summer during the months of July and August, tours are organized in the marine reserve of Carry-le-Rouet. In small guided groups with nothing more than a mask and a snorkel visitors can explore the rich small coastal seabed. They learn about the local flora and fauna and the role and importance of marine protected area. Visits are held three mornings a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturday mornings. Three departures are scheduled at 9:30 am, 10:30 am and 11:30. The tour lasts about 1 hour. It is free and accessible to all, adults and kids from the age of eight. Booking is advised (+33) 06 83 09 38 42

Marine Life Fun workshops
Every Thursday afternoon of July and August the Marine Park offers Marine Life fun workshops for children (8-14 years old) accompanied by a responsible adult. The program includes a presentation of the Marine Park and fauna and flora discovery activities including observation and identification of the main species of the Blue Coast shallow waters, as well as a presentation with anecdotes about their main habits and lifestyle!

Educational programs
Since 1984, during the spring and fall, Marine Discovery Classes and marine environment awareness workshops and exhibitions are organized by the Marine Park of the Blue Coast. They are mostly geared toward kids attending the schools of the 5 towns of the Blue Coast. These courses are 3 to 5 days and deal with various topics related to marine environment such as the fauna and flora of the coast, the Posidonia seabed but also marine pollution or traditional small size fishing activity. A visit to the Blue Coast by boat and discovery dives are also part of the program.
Actions are also conducted with schools and colleges outside the Blue Coast district and even adult camps are available from time to time. These programs allow the Marine Park to raise awareness and educate hundreds of people every year. They are essential to both have the public know about the Marine Park activities but also to engage the residents in the protection of their local environment so they value their natural marine and coastal heritage for future generations.

Photo credit: Sophie Gallardo

Marine Life
Four kinds of habitats make up the seabed of the Blue Coast.
– Posidonia seabed is the most common Mediterranean landscape. It is extremely important to its ecosystem and therefore protected.  The surface of this meadow is about 1,100 ha of the Blue Coast. The large Posidonia green stalks are home to many species as the great nacre.
– The Coralligenous under its mineral aspect, consists of a set of calcified seaweed formed over the years as a succession of strata. Many animals live both inside and outside, as the gorgons.
– Sandy Areas despite all appearances are also home to a multitude of species, not always easy to spot because their colour and patterns mimic the background or because they live buried in the sand. But if you look closely, you would be able to see flounders, goby ,worms or a brittle stars …
– Rocky Aeas are very diverse: cliffs, boulders, caves. They provide habitat to a large variety of marine life like sponges, corals, wrasses,  mussels, octopuses, shrimps, crabs, and lobsters, sea urchins and even groupers!

For more information go to La Côte Bleue Marine Park

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