Protect the Camargue fauna and share knowledge with the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve (Romania)

The Camargue Regional Nature Park is a Mediterranean biodiversity hot spot. As such, it is stepping up initiatives to reconcile farming and the environment, protect nature, and control the overall management of water in this exceptional wetland. Local efforts are further extended through a partnership with the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve (Romania).

Opened in 1970, the Camargue Regional Nature Park (RNP) is one of France’s oldest Regional Nature Parks. This delicately balanced rural, open, and inhabited land covers an area recognized for its exceptional quality, where nature conservation and the development of human activities must go hand in hand. The management of the Camargue Regional Nature Park (CRNP) tends to manage, develop, and protect this natural and cultural heritage according to its activities.
 
Two projects, supported by the Veolia Foundation, were implemented in 2010 to protect endangered populations of flamingos and certain fish species.

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Encouraging reproduction among pink flamingos and the growth of endangered fish species
Every year, in April, fifteen thousand couples of flamingos come to nest on an islet specially prepared for their reproduction in the Fangassier Lake on the southern tip of the Camargue.  Created in the early 70s and up until 2011, this 4,000 m² area provided France’s sole pink flamingo colony with a fixed location for its growth. Development of the Giraud saltmarsh had profoundly affected the area’s hydrological system (dykes, seawater pumping, etc.), leading to favorable conditions for bird nesting. The high salt content attracted large quantities of brine shrimp, a small shellfish highly appreciated by flamingos which intensifies the color of their plumage.
 
The situation changed in 2011 when part of the Giraud saltmarsh ceased operations and the water supply into the Fangassier Lake was stopped. Studies using technical and financial support from the Veolia Foundation were conducted to assess the impact of those changes and to decide whether any new water management methods should be implemented. A camera was set up 100 meters away from the islet to observe the flamingos and improve scientific knowledge about their reproduction.

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Meanwhile, work began to create a marine reserve in the Gulf of Beauduc. Since the CRNP is deeply committed to protecting the coastline, it runs several Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), including the Natura 2000 Camargue MPA in the 12-mile zone. Fishing restrictions and the Beauduc biotope protected zone covers about 900 hectares of sea and coastline in the Gulf of Beauduc.
 
This environment is naturally favorable to the development of water fauna: 140 species of fish and invertebrates living at depths below six meters have been inventoried. Accordingly, the Gulf of Beauduc has been clearly identified as a nursery area for fish but it is threatened by the non-selective, illegal fishing practiced by some trawlers[1]. Support from the Veolia Foundation has made it possible to install innovative modular structures on the seabed to allow young fish to assemble. These 5m3-removable modules play the role of artificial nurseries to help increase the chances of survival for the most vulnerable fish. This marine reserve project, which received the Foundation’s renewed approval in 2016, also includes an aspect relating to the controlled use of the coastline (traffic on the beaches, increased human presence due to kitesurfing and surfcasting)* through active surveillance and awareness-raising initiatives provided by Park staff. Simultaneously, the CRNP intends to step-up surveillance throughout the sector to reduce fishing violations committed in the 3-mile strip.
 

  • Protecting the fauna of the Camargue: promoting the reproduction of flamingos and the growth of endangered species of fish

    Protecting the fauna of the Camargue: promoting the reproduction of flamingos and the growth of endangered species of fish

    With the help of the Foundation, the Park is trialing an innovative system for reconstituting the seabed in the marine reserve recently created to protect the site.

  • Protecting the fauna of the Camargue: promoting the reproduction of flamingos and the growth of endangered species of fish

    Protecting the fauna of the Camargue: promoting the reproduction of flamingos and the growth of endangered species of fish

    With the help of the Foundation, the Park is trialing an innovative system for reconstituting the seabed in the marine reserve recently created to protect the site.

  • Protecting the fauna of the Camargue: promoting the reproduction of flamingos and the growth of endangered species of fish

    Protecting the fauna of the Camargue: promoting the reproduction of flamingos and the growth of endangered species of fish

    With the help of the Foundation, the Park is trialing an innovative system for reconstituting the seabed in the marine reserve recently created to protect the site.

  • Protecting the fauna of the Camargue: promoting the reproduction of flamingos and the growth of endangered species of fish

    Protecting the fauna of the Camargue: promoting the reproduction of flamingos and the growth of endangered species of fish

    With the help of the Foundation, the Park is trialing an innovative system for reconstituting the seabed in the marine reserve recently created to protect the site.

  • Protecting the fauna of the Camargue: promoting the reproduction of flamingos and the growth of endangered species of fish

    Protecting the fauna of the Camargue: promoting the reproduction of flamingos and the growth of endangered species of fish

    With the help of the Foundation, the Park is trialing an innovative system for reconstituting the seabed in the marine reserve recently created to protect the site.

  • Protecting the fauna of the Camargue: promoting the reproduction of flamingos and the growth of endangered species of fish

    Protecting the fauna of the Camargue: promoting the reproduction of flamingos and the growth of endangered species of fish

    With the help of the Foundation, the Park is trialing an innovative system for reconstituting the seabed in the marine reserve recently created to protect the site.

Renewed in 2017, the Veolia Foundation's support makes it possible to implement scientific fishing to evaluate the relevance of the tools implemented and, in particular, the efficiency of artificial nurseries. Presence at sea has also been stepped up to patrol the reserve and protected marine areas. Awareness-raising operations are also moving forward with the publication of a brochure planned for 2018.
 
The project’s focus is environmental, scientific, and socio-economic: environmental protection is fully implicated in aiding economic growth, since the sale of fish from the nurseries is creating local jobs and incomes.
 
Creation of an observatory for pink flamingos
A victim of its success, the Fangassier Lake attracts many nature-lovers.  Their comings and goings cause some deterioration to the natural environment (roadside plants crushed by parked cars, trampled grounds) and disturb the wildlife.

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In 2012, a supervision and educational guidance policy was developed to inform and guide the public in being more respectful of the site, including appropriate signing and the creation of a delineated, sheltered, and uninterrupted discovery trail featuring information panels about the wildlife. Thanks to the Veolia Foundation, an observation platform to watch the pink flamingo colony, called the “Flamingo Observatory”, was also built. Formerly used to supply electricity to the Giraud saltmarsh until it ceased operations, the structure is now a house on stilts, powered by solar panels and wind turbines. It welcomes visitors guided by “eco-guards” who are on hand at the Park from April to September to raise environmental awareness among the public.
 
Sharing knowledge with Romania
The success of the various projects implemented by the CRNP with the Foundation's support has raised interest beyond France’s borders. During an event organized by the Veolia Group’s Central European section, the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve (DDRB) expressed the desire to meet the CRNP's team. A partnership was subsequently signed between the CRNP and the Romanian reserve devoted to environmental protection and the preservation of biodiversity in the Danube delta. The aim is to encourage innovative experimentation.
 
The Veolia Foundation is supporting this international cooperation by facilitating a pairing to allow both reserves to share their knowledge. The partnership should lead to the joint identification and evaluation of issues of common interest regarding environmental protection and the preservation of biodiversity, which is a prerequisite to any international project involving both areas.


* Despite the fact that they are prohibited from approaching the coast by more than three nautical miles from (5.5 kilometers).