Seagrass, megayachts in France “hunted” offshore. What about in Italy?


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From the summer of 2021, the French government will ban mega-yachts from anchoring near the coast with severe penalties for violators. In Italy, however, in addition to Marine Protected Areas, there is either the “Wild West” or extemporaneous local regulations lacking vision.

Megayachts and seagrass

For us pleasure boaters, the Mediterranean is a big “playground.” The ideal destination for cruises, coastal outings and roadstead stops. We have thousands of miles of coastlines, islands and archipelagos, dreamy bays, temperate waters and beautiful seaside villages at our disposal. But the “Mare Nostrum” is also a fragile environment that has too long been a victim of pollution, microplastic invasion, illegal fishing and abuses of all kinds.

A new environmental consciousness and effective government policies are needed to preserve it. As well as strict laws limiting their brazen use, certain penalties for violations, and controls by maritime authorities. One of the most recent restrictions in the recreational sector has been enforced in France and specifically concerns megayachts. The new regulations have been in effect since the summer of 2021 and prohibit recreational boats longer than 24 meters overall from anchoring near the coast. The coastline affected by the ban is the French Riviera for a stretch of about 25 miles that includes iconic nautical tourism destinations, including Cap d’Antibes, Cannes, Juan les-Pins, the Lerins Islands and La Napoule.

Anchoring on seagrass is criminal

The law is also applied in other French localities such as Nice, Cap Ferrat, Villefranche, Cap Martin and the southern part of Corsica. And for those who don’t obey, iron fist: shipowners and captains caught violating anchorage limits are sanctioned with fines of up to 150,000 euros, a year in prison, seizure of the boat and a ban on sailing in French territorial waters.

The purpose of this tough French law is to safeguard the seabed and especially Seagrass meadows from damage caused by anchorages. In fact, during the stop in the bay, the anchor of a megayacht due to the swinging, currents and wind changes can come to destroy about 1,000 square meters of seagrass.

A huge ecological disaster considering that posidonia grows back very slowly by a few centimeters a year. According to recent estimates, there are about 1,800 to 2,000 boats from 24 to 45 meters in length mooring in the French Riviera, so according to French authorities, it was good to take cover.

Not only megayachts do damage

France, moreover, is not the only country in the Mediterranean that has restrictive regulations on the anchoring of boats and yachts due to the potential damage of seabed and posidonia meadows. Similarly strict laws apply in Spain, for example, particularly in the Balearic Islands or Croatia. After all, Posidonia occupies just 3 percent of the Mediterranean Sea and is disappearing as far as the eye can see. Researchers estimate that 34 percent of Posidonia has already disappeared in the Mare Nostrum over the past 50 years, and its rate of regression is 5 percent per year. So welcome regulations for the preservation of this valuable marine plant. It now remains to stop the impact of boats under 24 meters as well. Their impact is certainly less than that of mega yachts, but they account for more than 95 percent of all recreational units.


Italy lacks unified and forward-looking legislation

What’s happening in Italy in this regard? In our country, European Directive no. 43/92 EEC on the “conservation of natural and semi-natural habitats and of wild flora and fauna,” so Posidonia is for all intents and purposes a protected species. Thick application in Italian waters and coasts applies to the 1979 Bern Convention on the “Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats” and the 1995 Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea from Pollution.

As for anchorage bans, however, Italian boaters face “patchy” protection. There are Marine Protected Areas where boating is completely prohibited, even to small boats, and free zones that are the nautical version of the “far west,” with boats and mega yachts moored just a few meters from the coast. Or even massive and extemporaneous restrictions come into effect, as has recently been happening on the island of Capri, where a new marine protected area surrounding the Faraglioni rocks will be established starting next summer, severely restricting boating and mooring on this stretch of coastline.

Posidonia, best practices at the anchorage

Beyond restrictions and bans we boaters can contribute to the protection of Posidonia in many ways. First of all, knowing the homegrown areas where the Posidonia meadows. We talk about western Sardinia, for example the La Maddalena Archipelago, and then Sicily, from Capo Feto to the Egadi Islands, which are home to what is considered the largest and best-preserved Posidonia meadow in the Mediterranean. Then again the area of Portofino, the Tuscan Archipelago, the Pontine Islands, Ischia, and the northern part of the Gulf of Naples. Along the coasts of the southern Adriatic Sea, Posidonia is found instead in Puglia in the areas of Brindisi, Lecce, and the Tremiti Islands.

After that, during anchorages and anchorages in the roadstead, it is necessary to avoid dropping anchor on a prairie. Even a small “iron” can in fact tear off roots, stems and leaves of this marine plant. It is also good not to discharge black water and gray water into the sea. So is not littering, particularly plastics, detergents, sunscreen, oils, hydrocarbons and other toxic liquids that would contaminate the surrounding sea and Posidonia meadows.


Where is the seagrass? An App tells you so

Just to try to limit the phenomenon of destructive Posidonia anchorages all boaters can use Donia, a free application that allows them to locate anchorage sites free of seagrass so they are not damaged by anchors and chains. Available on smartphones and tablets, Donia indicates the nature of the seabed, depth, regulations at sea, satellite images but also harbors and especially anchorage areas.

Losing Posidonia means having a Mediterranean Sea poorer in oxygen, health and biodiversity. Which also translates into harm to the entire Mediterranean community, not just boaters. However, we love the sea more than others and can set a good example.



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