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Environmental protection at Golfe-Juan's Port Camille Rayon

CÔTE D'AZUR & PROVENCE

Remy Dubas, one of Ecocean's divers, prepares the Biohut units for installation. ©Klaudia RzezniczakTogether with Port Camille Rayon, the city of Golfe-Juan-Vallauris has installed fish nurseries to protect local fish from the dangers of sea life and port obstacles. Ecocean's 'Biohuts' have been installed in the port to not only protect baby fish, but also improve overall sea life and study the effects on local biodiversity.

The use of concrete, pollutants and boat parts endanger biodiversity in ports - not least on the Côte d'Azur. For this reason, French company Ecoceans has developed artificial habitats especially to protect young fish. At the beginning of the March, their so-called "Biohuts" were installed in Port Camille Rayon in Golfe-Juan-Vallauris.

Biohut Ecocean sustainability fish nursery - Port Camille Rayon

The day at the beautiful yacht harbour in Golfe-Juan began with children's games like Fish Memory. While some employees of the Ecocean company were busy attaching Biohut® cages to the pontoons, others informed two primary school classes about the dangerous life of fish in ports. Raising public awareness is particularly close to the company's heart, explained Sabrina Palmieri, Ecocean's spokeswoman, while in the background the schoolchildren played a life-size board game recreating the everyday life of young fish. That's why every time the company installs its Biohut modules in a port, it also co-organises an open information event and, above all, workshops for school kids. "After all, children are the adults of the future," Palmieri emphasised.

In theory, harbours are a good home for growing fish that are not yet strong enough to swim against waves and therefore prefer calm waters. However, the increasing "concreting" of harbours creates a lack of food sources and hiding places for these baby fish. Water pollution as well as heavy anchors destroy the natural habitat and pose a threat to the survival of fish species. On average only ten per cent of young fish survive to reproductive age in ports. As a result, fish populations are declining.

This is why Ecocean, a company founded by Gilles Lecaillon in Montpellier in 2003 to study the biodiversity of Mediterranean ecosystems, developed its Biohuts seven years ago. The steel cages serve as "artificial nurseries for young fish". They consist of three chambers, the middle one of which is filled with shellfish and serves as a food source. The two outer chambers offer young fish protection at all times from their predators - adult fish for whom the approximately four-by-five-centimetre grid openings are too small. These artificial habitats are installed either on the quay, on the catwalk pontoons between the boats or on rocks on the seabed.

Depending on the species, the young generation of fish remain for one to three months until they have grown up. Then they can lay up to a million eggs and live between six and fifty years. Along the Côte d'Azur, around 20 different species of fish can be found, among which the gilthead seabream and the golden maiden.

Michelle Salucki, the Mayor of Vallauris-Golfe-Juan, Pierre Rayon, the Head of Port Camille Rayon, as well as Andrée Alziari-Negre, advisor to Région Sud, and Sabrina Palmieri, Ecocean spokespersons (from left), at the inauguration ceremony. ©Klaudia RzezniczakTwice a year, the facilities will be equipped with Biohut Ecocean sustainability fish and after three to four years a final assessment is made of the extent to which biodiversity has developed.

"It's a simple solution that doesn't cost a fortune," says Rémy Dubas, one of Ecocean's divers. Biohut is basically installed at the initiative of the port, which will bear part of the costs, between 10,000 and 70,000 euros for four modules. Around 20 per cent is paid by Agence Région Sud, and Agence de l'Eau also subsidizes this marine protection measure.

In the Mediterranean, Biohuts have already been installed at 26 locations, including 15 on the Côte d'Azur: for example in Monaco, Cannes, Antibes, Marseille and Fréjus. All of these ports are committed to improving water quality both in and around the port and are certified with Ecocean for being environmentally responsible ports. Not far from Golfe-Juan, a rare and endangered species of brown grouper was sighted in another port where a Biohut is installed, Sabrina Palmieri reports with pleasure. "Perhaps we will soon see one here too. I hope so!"

The small inauguration ceremony that followed was attended by the president of the Port, Pierre Rayon, Harbour Master Alexandre Joskowicz and the Mayor of Golfe-Juan-Vallauris, Michelle Saluchi. The primary school children showed great interest in sea life. After the workshops, in which they eagerly participated, the children looked at the information flyers. Next year, the students will come back to watch their progress together with the Ecocean team. Until then, everyone can look down from the quay at the freshly installed Biohuts and watch what's going on in the fish kindergarten.

-Klaudia Rzezniczak