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The different marine protected area categories

Defined by the law of 14 April 2006, the six categories of marine protected area each meet specific objectives whilst complementing each other: the marine sections of national parks, natural reserves, prefectoral orders for the protection of biotopes, Natura 2000 sites, the sections of the maritime public domains entrusted to Coastline Conservation and natural marine parks. This provides a wide range of tools to which it is possible to add new categories through ministerial orders, which happened on 3 June 2011, with nine new categories mainly coming from international agreements.

The order of 3 June 2011 completes the list of MPAs created in 2006, with 9 new categories, with the exception of the national wild fauna and hunting reserve. These new MPAs come both from international recognition and a new protection process:

  • RAMSAR sites, UNESCO world heritage sites et biosphere reserves;
  • sites arising from the Barcelona agreements (Mediterranean), OSPAR (north-east Atlantic), Nairobi (East Africa), Cartagena (West Indies) and CAMLR (Antarctica) ;
  • the national wild fauna and hunting reserve with a marine section in the Morbihan Gulf.

The Law of 14 April 2006

The law of 14 April 2006 has widened the legal notion of national parks and enabled the technical and legal specificities of the marine environment to the considered. France has applied the notion of a marine protected area arising from international commitments and European directives into its own laws.
By defining an open list of 15 categories of marine protected areas, the state now has tools that can work together in the same area and that can be combined into regional seas with the result of creating a coherent network of marine protected areas that France is committed to.

Eight objectives regarding the creation of marine protected areas

Marine protected areas must be seen as tools enabling sustainable management of the marine environment and coastal areas. By including all the people involved, they are defined as "a defined space that meets the objective of protecting nature over the long term, not exclusive from controlled economic development, for which management measures are defined and implemented".
If the protection of species or habitats listed in laws is common to all MPAs, each has an objective that is specific to it. The size of marine protected areas depends on the objectives of their creation. Its mode of governance, in particular choice of the parties involved participating in the decision-making process, depends on the local context of the project.
The size of marine protected areas obviously depends on the objectives of their creation.

F1. The healthy state of listed and heritage species and habitats or those that deserve to be (rare species threatened species);
F2. The healthy state of unlisted species and habitats (exploited halieutic species, very locally abundant species giving biogeographical responsibility to the host site);
F3. The yield of key economic functions (spawning grounds, nurseries, productivity, resting, food supply, migration);
F4. The healthy state of marine waters;
F5. The sustainable use of resources;
F6. The sustainable development of usages;
F7. The maintenance of maritime cultural heritage;
F8. Added value (social, economic, scientific, educational).

Categories of marine protected area as per the law of 14 April 2006 Potential objectives of the creation of a marine protected area
  F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 F6 F7 F8
Natural reserve with a maritime section X X X         X
Natura 2000 site at sea X              
National Park with a maritime section X X X X X X X X
Natural Marine Park X X X X X X X X
Maritime sections of MPD being managed by Coastal Conservation X X X     X X X
Biotope protection order with a maritime section X              

The creation and management of marine protected areas

In the maritime domain, the role of the state is predominant in terms of decision-making. It is its responsibility to put in place the different categories of marine protected areas (e.g.: creation of Natura 2000 sites and assignments for the creation of natural marine parks). Governing bodies are put in place for management purposes and to ensure the successful integration of maritime bodies in decision-making: Natura 2000 steering committee, national parks executive board, Coastal Conservation land management committee, etc.
The AAMP is responsible for supporting the creation and management of marine protected areas no matter their type. It federates marine protected area managers.
Furthermore, the agency is systematically responsible for the management of natural Marine parks created, by making a management committee and the financial and human means necessary available.

Necessary linking between the different categories of marine protected area
Marine protected areas with different statutes can be superimposed on the same territory, which sometimes makes it difficult to understand the logic regarding their boundaries and governance. This is why the legislator has planned for Natura 2000 sites that are mainly included in natural marine parks to be managed by the park.
The managers’ forum is working on the publication of an educational guide concerning this linking between marine protected areas but also with other tools used on territories: diagram promoting the sea, integrated management of coastal areas, etc.