Share this page Print this page Add this page to my favourites Recommend this page to a friend Increase fontDecrease font

Educational Managed Marine Area - Young people learning about and protecting the sea

An "Educational Managed Marine Area" (EMMA) is a small coastal area a few km2 wide, managed in a participatory way by primary school pupils, in accordance with principles defined in a charter. It is an educational and eco-friendly project to help young people better understand and protect the marine environment. The children become part of a local project that draws on the expertise of the school and local municipality, along with user associations and environmental protection groups.

The concept was born in the Marquesas Islands in 2012 after pupils from a school in Vaitahu spoke of their desire to look after a marine area near their school.

French Polynesia and the founding partners have since structured the concept to create an EMMA label. To take the strategy further, the "Pukatai" (coral in Marquesan) pilot network of six EMMA was launched on in 2014.

During the Cop 21 in Paris, a partnership was signed between the French Ministry of Environment, Energy and Oceans, Ségolène Royal and Edouard Fritch, President of the French Polynesian government, in order to continue the success of the Polynesian network of EMMA and to promote the approach across France in accordance with the philosophy of the original concept.

2016-2017: Strengthening the French Polynesian network and launching of the pilot phase in mainland France and french overseas Territories

At the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, new schools will start to create their EMMA in other archipelagos of French Polynesia. At the same time a national pilot programme will be launched to establish eight new EMMA in mainland France and french overseas territories.

This programme is coordinated in French Polynesia by the Polynesian Ministry of Education and in mainland France by the national Ministries of the Environment, Overseas Territories and Education. The French Marine Protected area agency will be responsible for operational implementation of thoses projects. In French overseas territories, it will be supported by the French coral reef initiative (IFRECOR). From September 2016, these schools will start to roll out actions and will be awarded their EMMA label in May 2017, depending on the work carried out.

An eco-friendly project

This educational approach is based on voluntary involvement and participatory management by students across a small stretch of sea. The schools are at the heart of the management and decisionmaking mechanisms and coordinate the actions to protect the marine environment.

The project also seeks to share scientific knowledge about the marine environment and to promote the proper use and culture of the sea with professionals.


The concept of EMMA is based on three pillars : "understanding, sharing and managing the sea".

Each school needs to implement a programme of actions to prepare correct management of the area, in particular : 

  • Conducting an ecological survey in the chosen area involving the children alongside scientific teams ;
  • Establishing a children’s sea council to discuss the actions to be implemented, which can include sea stakeholders and elected officials, as required ;
  • Investing in educational activities within the areas so that the children can think for themselves by drawing on and developing new understanding in a real-life situation ;
  • Developing relationships with elected officials, professionals and academics in order to link up different generations.

The children from the various EMMA will be able to communicate with one another and with other young managers in order to share their experiences. They will also be able to develop close links with the managers of existing marine protected areas.

Towards an international awarness

Following the enthusiasm generated by the first EMMA in the Marquesas Islands, the experiment has now been extended to mainland France and its overseas territories, where it has been well received by the key stakeholders.

The approach was presented to the World Parks Congress in Sydney in 2014 and has already raised interest in various countries. The congress in Hawaii and others will be the opportunity for the global community to get involved and cooperate to develop a joint strategy and move towards broad international awarness. This network of EMMA could one day bring together children from different corners of the globe to discuss and discover their respective ecosystems and cultures and to challenge policymakers, users and citizens on their commitments and actions for protecting the ocean.

Download :






Agence des Aires Marines Protégées

Cross-ministry coordination