France must impose strict levels of marine protection

National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris, France.

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Following President Emmanuel Macron’s call last month for an increase in the coverage and protection of marine protected areas (MPAs) in France’s exclusive economic zone, it is important that levels of protection are appropriately set for each of the French sea basins.

France plans to establish more than 20 new protected areas by 2022. In the French Southern and Antarctic Lands, for example, the country’s ecological defence council intends to create an MPA around the islands of Saint-Paul and Amsterdam and to increase protection of the Glorioso Islands’ MPA. Together, these will meet Macron’s objective for MPAs to cover 30% of France’s exclusive economic zone, and for one-third of these areas to be ‘strongly protected’.

The French Biodiversity Agency is still working on a definition of ‘strong protection’. In my view, the term should be confined to full and high protection (as defined by the MPA Guide). Only such stringent levels are likely to deliver the expected ecological benefits (see M. Zupan et al. Front. Ecol. Environ. 16, 381–387; 2018). Macron’s targets must therefore include each of the French sea basins.

The ecological defence council aims to set guidelines on the degrees of protection that will preserve biodiversity and sustain the livelihood of millions of people. It will also monitor the implementation of these guidelines.

Nature 570, 36 (2019)

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