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In the Landes, 2,500 m3 of artificial reefs submerged in the Atlantic Ocean to save fish

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

“My goal is to see a new species every year. So far that 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 surfcasting fisherman, worried about not fishing anything at the edge of the water. While looking for a solution to fight against the drastic decline in 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 the beginning, we weren’t experts, we were doing tests 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 period of experimentation, the association developed its own modules, adapted to Atlantic species. The Typi arrived in 2010 looks like a cone without a hat and the Babel installed in 2015 is nothing but a multi-storey tower.

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.

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 has achieved consensus among the institutions. The association receives subsidies from the Region, the Department and the community of communes of Maremne-Adour-Côte-Sud.

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 the marine environment. The resource is running out and the fishermen are tempted to scrape as much as possible. It is difficult to protect.”

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

Witnesses of global warming

Each year, the team of volunteer divers will take readings and take photos. They are at the forefront of observing global warming. “We are seeing 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 coasts. We have to ask ourselves questions. With ALR, I’m useful for something. It’s not that which will repopulate the sea, but more the better it will be”says the passionate diver.

scientific work

Luc, who gets seasick, invests differently, by raising awareness. “It’s obviously a little 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. 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 rate of plastic nano-particles that are there, that would be interesting.”

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