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PRESERVING LAGOONS AND WETLANDS IN LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLON

To better preserve the lagoons and wetlands in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, site managers and the environmental police decided to coordinate their joint efforts.

Lying at the interface between land and sea, the Languedoc-Roussillon coast line and its string of lagoons constitute a remarkable natural heritage. The lagoons and linked wetlands are of extremely high ecological value and very fragile. "Given the population in Languedoc-Roussillon, significant pressures are exerted due to urbanisation, overuse and fragmentation by infrastructure. In addition, the lagoons and wetlands are also the last way point in river basins where pollution accumulates", notes Odile Cruz, head of the Inspections department at the Onema Mediterranean regional office. Most of the sites are protected nature zones (Natura 2000 sites), but the managers regularly note offences for which the water and environmental police forces rarely deliver citations. To enhance selection of policing priorities in the lagoon zones and improve coordination of inspection programmes, the managers and environmental police forces (Onema, ONCFS, Gendarmerie, coastal guards, departmental territorial and maritime agencies, etc.) decided to coordinate their efforts.

Organising between the various entities

As part of the European Life + Lag’Nature project to preserve the sites, a number of meetings were devoted to the environmental police in 2012 and 2013. The purpose of the meetings, presided by the regional environmental agency, in a partnership with the Languedoc-Roussillon conservatory for natural areas (CEN LR), the Board for coastal ponds and the Coastal board, was to create occasions for discussions between the managers and the various police forces. "The goal was to ensure that everyone had the same information and to assist in setting up an organisation to facilitate the transmission of information on needs and expectations", notes Odile Cruz, adding that "the presence of the State prosecutor and of elected officials in charge of managing the sites made clear that coordination between the various police forces (municipal, administrative, criminal) was necessary to put an end to environmental abuses and restore affected sites". Following the meetings, joint efforts were set up between managers and the police in sensitive areas to raise awareness and deliver citations for offences. The most common include poaching, water abstractions, pollution of aquatic environments, use of motor vehicles and the destruction of habitats or installations.

The joint efforts also resulted in the drafting of a guide book, the "Environmental police memo". The booklet, written by CEN LR and the regional environmental agency, provides important information on the organisation of the police forces, the roles of managers and a number of concrete examples of common offences. The document also contains the contact information of the various participating entities to facilitate discussions. To simplify the work, other small guide books have been prepared by certain management entities for the police forces, containing maps showing where problems exist, a description of protected habitats and species, a list of offences and a sheet listing applicable regulations.

For more information, contact:
odile.cruz@onema.fr