The Calanques of Marseille, soon National Park
First broadcast date
The future National Park of the Calanques should be established in 2012.
Its creation should allow a unique management of this area of nearly 13,000 hectares, currently threatened by fires and a large influx of tourists (1.2 million visitors per year).
But the creation of the National Park is far from unanimous among the local population, who fear that new regulations threaten their way of life.
AFP Video (AFPVI) - Own production
Protection of Natural environments
- Society and way of life
- Landscapes and environment / Geography and landscapes
- Landscapes and environment / Eco-systems and sustainable development
Credits / Cast
- Latourelle Cécile - Journalist
- Royer-Perreault Lionel - Participant
- France - South East - Marseille
Marseille's calanques, soon a national park
In 1999, the Groupement d’Intérêt Publique des Calanques (a Public Interest Group for the calanques ) was created to protect the natural and cultural heritage landscape of an area outside Marseille known as the calanques (from the Corsican word calanca meaning inlet -- they have been compared to Mediterranean fjords, on a smaller scale). The GIP wanted to set up a national park following new criteria introduced by the law of 2006. The aim was to preserve not only the magnificent landscape with its stunning cliffs dropping sheer into the Mediterranean bordered by a ring of little islands, but also the biodiversity and great wealth of plants and animals, both on the land and in the sea. Finally the GIP was anxious to protect the cultural heritage, in other words the few remaining traces of ancient human settlement (the Cosquer grotto) and the traditional customs that are still present today.
This heritage landscape is threatened mainly because it is so close to Marseille, France's second biggest city. The thousands of tourists both in and on the sea and on the land causes soil erosion, the degradation of the marine ecosystems, land pollution and the destruction of the meadows of seagrass (Posidonia oceanica) because of the number of boats anchoring there. In addition recurrent fires and uncontrolled urbanisation sprawling across the hills cause yet more damage to the landscape and ecosystems.
A structure such as a national park would unify and co-ordinate the management and protection of the various areas which belong to a mosaic of owners under several different local authorities. The future park would have the authority of a public institution and thus the means both human (a permanent team on the ground, scientists, technicians and experts), financial and legal to set up a genuine policy to protect and develop the site. In addition the calanques are internationally recognised as an area to be preserved.
All the same, creating a national park is not without problems. How to resolve the contradiction at the heart of the park's remit: preserve the attractiveness of these natural spaces by protecting them against the damage done by the people who are attracted to them. A large project, in an inhabited area, the creation of a natural park raised many deep concerns. The people who use the area (for pleasure, walkers, mountain bikers, climbers, owners of cabanons, hunters, fishermen, divers, bathers, water-sports) feared their hobbies would be restricted. Compromises were essential, accepting that certain traditional pastimes continue. The park's boundaries were also the subject of several conflicts. Most of the area is part of Greater Marseille. However there are 13 other communes concerned: Aubagne, Cuges-Les-Pins, Roquefort-La-Bédoule, Cassis… Some of them refused to belong to the park. Like Saint-Cyr-sur-mer, they were afraid they would lose yet more autonomy. Originally hoping to have 13,000 hectares, the perimeter of the park had to be reduced. Now there is a central zone currently estimated at 8,400 hectares of land and 42,000 of sea. There is also a buffer zone of 9,500 hectares of land and 140,000 hectares of sea (AG of June 27th 2011). After many debates, the future national park of the calanques should open in 2012. It will then be the only French national park both terrestrial and marine trying to protect the environment close to a large city of more than a million people.
Catherine Aubertin et Estienne Rodary, Aires protégées, espaces durables, éditions de l'IRD, Paris, 2008
Samuel Depraz, Géographie des espaces protégés. Genèse, principes et enjeux territoriaux, Armand Colin, Collection U, Paris, 2008