Keepers of the Coast : 3 battles to follow closely

With the Keepers of the Coast program, motivated volunteers are concretely committing to ocean and coastal conservation. Surfrider frequently gives you the opportunity to follow our current Keepers of the Coast battles. From Dollemard to Biarritz, including Capbreton, overview of battles which require Surfrider’s attention regarding environmental risks and conflicts of use.

  • Planning and development of Marbella Beach in Biarritz: an emblematic conflict of use

In terms of coastal conservation and coastline recession limitation, the city of Biarritz is currently supporting a Marbella Beach planning project. This project has triggered a general outcry since June because it initially planned for an invasive planning, causing reduction of the beach area due to riprap. While the laudable aim of the city of Biarritz is to protect the coastline, in consistency with local council community goals, this type of boardwalk project can be a threat to this surf spot. This could lead to negative impact on the sand dunes with could lead to the disappearance of Marbella Beach, one of the few concrete-free beaches.
As it is attentive to the impacts on site-born issues (economic, touristic and athletic) Surfrider Foundation Europe approached the city hall for access to the project plans and to evaluate the issues taken into consideration. The city of Biarritz recently amended the initial project under pressure from two citizen collectives Sauvons Marbella and SOS Biarritz, and Surfrider Foundation Europe. A new version of the project would in fact ensure protection of both the beach and waves. This new version will be presented to government services and adjourns public consultations to January or February 2018.
If these discussions show engagement in a dialogue process, the feasibility of this project has yet to be confirmed. Besides, Surfrider Europe wasn’t invited to join the new project presentation meeting on August 7,2017. However the project was presented to us the following day in a select committee meeting including the Mayor and his Chief Operating Officer. We are thankful to the City Hall but we are surprised not to have been invited to participate in the general meeting of August 7th, which was an invite-only meeting. Surfrider is nonetheless a user-protection and environmental conservation certified organization.

The planning Marbella Beach case study in the Basque Country is symptomatic of a more and more recurring issue for our coastlines. Because of its location and expertise in planning and coastal artificialization, Surfrider Europe, via its local Chapter and Keepers of the Coast program, requests to be associated to future discussions regarding this project. The city of Biarritz must continue the consultation process and associate a maximum of stakeholders to the design of the new project. Our position for the entire European territory : an open and benevolent dialogue associating stakeholders in order to anticipate conflicts of use by taking into consideration all territory issues.

  • Dollemard landfill : action is long overdue

For over 50 years, tons of waste have been discharged from the top of the Dollemard cliffs, North of Le Havre. After a collapse in 1988, a large amount of waste was found on the beaches. Today, the issue remains: every tide, erosion releases plastic, Styrofoam and other macro wastes in the ocean. Many photos and videos show the extent of this catastrophe.
Surfrider is alarmed at the risks which threaten the ecosystem and local biodiversity. In fact, the site is an integral part of “littoral cauchois” Natura 2000 zone and the Dollemand cliffs are listed in the city of Le Havre’s local urban masterplan as “remarkable natural sites”. Our Keeper sounded the alarm several times by alerting on this environmental disaster. There have been Saint Jouin Bruneval Beach clean up and plastic waste awareness actions. The creation of a reflection group with the Assocition Ecologie Pour Le Havre (EPLH) is still under consideration in order to find a solution to decontaminate this site.
In the light of the complexity of this issue, Surfrider Foundation Europe requested to participate in reflections led on site with elected representatives, administrative structures and local associations. After many failed attempts, it is time to find a solution to sustainably decontaminate the Dollemard cliffs!

  • Sea bass fishing in Les Landes : an endangering practice for users and…the coastline!

In Les Landes, a conflict has been opposing water sports practitioners and professional fishermen for several years. Two ships are frequently mentioned: the “Puma” for the Arcachon zone and the “Chipiron” for the Capbreton zone. Their fishing technique puts the coastline and surfers at risk as they could get trapped in the fishing nets. In fact, while one end of the net is left on the trough’s sandbar, ships sail in circles at high speed ( over 15 or 20 nautical knots, above the 5 knot speed limit in a 300 meter range from the shoreline) to trap and catch fish…as well as users, swimmers or surfers in the area.
Not only is this technique dangerous and illegal but it also has devastating impact on marine environment. The Sea bass is in fact considered an endangered specie at a regional level mainly because of over fishing. This “aggressive” technique does not allow enough time for resource regeneration. It also causes physical (noise, smell) and environmental nuisance which led to several complaints and police logs from seaside resorts and the Surf Federation. Many actions remain un-addressed to this day…
In view of this new threat and mostly, the general do-nothingness of institutions and competent authorities, our Keeper has started a petition and informed the media on this little known issue. We are asking surfers and fishermen supporting Surfrider to send us photos and videos of ships caught in the act. Lifeguard have also been informed and some have made reports to the authorities which still remain un-addressed.

Surfrider will pursue this battle until finding common grounds !

To follow Keepers of the Coast news :

What is the « Keepers of the Coast » program ?

Surfrider Foundation Europe key program based on community commitment, Keepers of the Coast sees to coastal conservation by mobilizing against pollution and coastal deterioration and artificialization. Along with its commited citizens who are considered as ocean and coastal soldiers, Surfrider is supportive via its scientific, media and sometimes legal expertise. To this day, 59 battles have been won, 13 lost, 25 in progress and 12 closed cases.

Who can be a Keeper of the Coast?

You have identified an environmental issue and you are ready to mobilize to change the situation? Anybody who wants to volunteer can become a Keeper of the Coast. The success of the local action and the mobilization regarding an action is closely linked to the time invested by keepers. If you are actually motivated and have information to help the case move toward ocean and coastal conservation, get in touch with Keepers of the Coast!


Writing: Alicia Munoz

Translation : Marianne Biron