‘Crimson lights’ as over-tourism threatens Corsican nature reserve

Vacationers look forward to tour boats on the port of Porto, close to Ota, on August 19, 2019, to go on a cruise within the Scandola Nature Reserve, on the western coast of the French Mediterranean island of Corsica. AFP / Pascal Pochard-Casabianca

Girolata, France:  “It is nature’s magical design,” says a vacationer information, waxing poetic as he feedback on the spectacular purple cliffs plunging right into a turquoise sea on the Scandola nature reserve on France’s Corsica island.

“Superb!” exclaims Irena Snydrova, a Czech vacationer visiting the UNESCO World Heritage website together with her household, together with teams from Italy, Spain and France.

Their boat sidles as much as the Steps of Paradise, rocks formed right into a stairway some 15 metres (50 toes) lengthy, then glides on to Unhealthy Luck Cross, a former pirates’ redoubt.

The ages have sculpted the volcanic cliffs into myriad shapes that beguile the customer, who may think a kissing couple right here, a horse’s head there, Napoleon’s two-cornered hat additional on…

The park, created in 1975, is an ecological dream, being a nature reserve and a protected marine zone that’s listed by France’s coastal safety company and Natura 2000, along with its recognition by UNESCO.

It’s a prime vacation spot for the some three million individuals who go to Corsica every year, 75 % of them in the summertime.

The paradox is that rising numbers of vacationers are drawn to Scandola’s pristine waters and beautiful geological vistas, endangering its fragile ecosystem.

The park, reached solely by boat some 40 minutes from the tiny port of Porto, stretches over 10 sq. kilometres (practically 4 sq. miles) of sea, and a considerably smaller space of land.

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“The reserve is a jewel for Corsica and the Mediterranean, however a number of purple lights are flashing,” says marine biologist Charles-Francois Boudouresque, itemizing natural world in danger, together with ospreys, seagrass and fish species such because the brown meagre.

The vacationer season coincides with the ospreys’ mating season, notes Boudouresque, an emeritus professor on the Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography.

Due to over-tourism, ospreys’ “reproductive success is zero or close to zero, with both no chicks or only one chick” per 12 months, he says.

Boudouresque, who additionally heads Scandola’s scientific advisory council, says the osprey may turn into extinct in 50 years.

‘Golden egg’

Since final month, on the urging of the scientific council, boats should preserve a distance of at the least 250 metres from ospreys’ nests through the breeding season.

“It is a good begin,” Boudouresque says.

As for the marine park’s fish species, Boudouresque says he thinks the thrumming of the vacationer boats is scaring them away.

However a crew member, who gave his title solely as Diego, blamed groupers for the declining inhabitants of corb. “They eat all the things,” he advised AFP.

Tensions have arisen pitting tour boat operators and fishermen in opposition to the reserve’s conservationist Jean-Marie Dominici.

Boudouresque says the seagrass “shouldn’t be in one of the best form,” blaming the anchors dropped by the numerous boats — a few of them personal vessels with out authorised guides.

“It is weird for a nature reserve to see all these boats,” stated Pierre Gilibert, a 65-year-old physician, who’s a daily customer. “It may be smart to permit entry solely to skilled boats.”

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Many share the opinion that non-public boats should not sufficiently monitored or knowledgeable of ecological issues.

“This morning we noticed individuals climbing on the rocks and berthing their boats in slim passageways, which isn’t allowed,” stated Gabriel Pelcot, chief mechanic on a cruise ship of the Corsican firm Nave Va.

Nave Va, in addition to rival By way of Mare, makes use of hybrid vessels: they’re powered by diesel as much as the sting of the marine park, then change to electrical for a quieter and fewer polluting presence.

Pelcot notes that this inexperienced possibility is 30 % dearer, however he expects it to catch on.

“We should discover a compromise between the necessity for vacationers to take pleasure in this pure treasure and that of not killing the goose that laid the golden egg,” Boudouresque says.

The marine biologist is optimistic that basic consciousness of the issues is rising.

He envisions methods to marry tourism with preservation. One instance, he says, could be to focus cameras on ospreys’ nests in order that they are often noticed with out being disturbed.