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From oceans to forests: Noah’s ark at the bottom of the ocean

For more than 20 years, the artificial reefs of Atlantique Landes Récifs have been a refuge for marine species. The objective of the association is to fight against depopulation and limit bottom trawling.

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My goal is to see a new species each year. Until now it has always been the case! Muriel Barrère is passionate about scuba diving. La Landaise embarked a few years ago on a project that some might call crazy, others salutary.

The Atlantique Landes Récifs association was created by a fisherman from surfcasting (a technique of angling in the wave, from the beach or the rocks), worried about not fishing anything at the edge of the water. While searching a solution to fight against the drastic decline of the halieutic resource, Gérard Fourneau discovered artificial reefs. Used for several decades in Japan, they are like refuges for colonies of fish.

Tailor-made modules

For more than twenty years, the team has immersed 2,500 m3 of modules. ” At first, we weren’t experts, we were experimenting with recycled materials, like concrete nozzles », explains Muriel Barrère, treasurer of the association. In 1999, 800 m3 of nozzles were dropped in the Capbreton concession. Two years later, a new concession was granted to Soustons-Vieux Boucau and finally a third to Messanges-Azur-Moliets.

After the experimentation time, the association has developed its own modules, adapted to Atlantic species. The Typi, which arrived in 2010, looks like a hatless cone and the Babel, installed in 2015, is nothing but a multi-storey tower.

During a sea trip aboard the Calypso, the boat used by the association's divers.  Photos Philippe Salvat/South West
During a sea trip aboard the Calypso, the boat used by the association’s divers. Photos Philippe Salvat/South West

These shelters, weighing nearly 10 tons each, did not remain uninhabited for long. ” The day after the installation, we notice new fish. They are curious », rejoices Jean-Paul Roger Etchegoyen. ” These are real nurseries, the juveniles are better protected in these stops adds Luc Deramaix, vice-president.

Fishing prohibited

These refuges, 20 meters deep, are the ideal place for the reproduction of marine species. Contrary to the Japanese modules developed in an intensive fishing logic, the Landes Typi and Babel promote restocking and help to fight against illegal trawling in shallow waters. Fishing and diving are prohibited around these areas.

The project achieves consensus among the institutions. The association receives subsidies from the Region, the Department and the community of communes of Maremma-Adour-Côte-Sud (MACS). Pierre Froustey, president of the community of communes, mayor of Vieux-Boucau and member of the association is full of praise for ALR. ” It is the guardian of the temple of the quality of marine environments. The resource is running out and fishermen are tempted to scrape as much as possible. It’s hard to protect. »

If it weren’t for our reefs, there would be nothing, it’s just sand in these areas, says Muriel. Some species begin to settle
“, she rejoices.

Each year, the team of volunteer divers will take readings and take photos. They are at the forefront of observing global warming. ” We see more and more Mediterranean species such as amberjack or triggerfish. »

Muriel, who wears a dolphin pendant, also recounts, with the eyes of a little girl, her encounters with these cetaceans. His tender look quickly gives way to a certain seriousness. ” It’s not normal to see them closer and closer to our shores. You have to ask questions. With ALR, I’m good for something. It’s not going to repopulate the sea, but the more the better “says the passionate diver.

scientific work

Luc, who gets seasick, invests differently, by raising awareness. ” It’s inevitably a bit frustrating not to experience all of this. But the divers entrust me with their images and their observations. He shares these stories with children in schools. He introduces them to the reefs and the work of the association.

Every summer, ALR also organizes “fishing on foot” trips around the marine lake of Port d’Albret in Vieux-Boucau. The opportunity for great discoveries. “People are amazed to find seahorses here. »

While the association hopes to continue the work and immerse new reefs, the challenge is also scientific research. The data collected by ALR is a gold mine. At each dive, a species count is made.

Luc, the vice-president specifies: “Our reefs are a scientific laboratory open to all. The French research institute for the exploitation of the sea (Ifremer) could very well install sensors there. For example, we could measure the level of plastic nanoparticles found there, that would be interesting. »

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