Marine and Coastal Resources Governance

In this section, find relevant initiatives by France in Réunion on Marine Spatial Planning and Marine Protected Areas. Also find a catalogue of relevant local, regional, and international laws applicable in the island.

(Note that Réunion has been a department of France since 1946. France is a member of the European Union. Regulations and decisions become automatically binding throughout the EU on the date they take effect. Directives must be incorporated into national law by EU countries.)

As a result of increasing pressures affecting the marine environment, many developments have occurred in recent years. Among the most significant is the creation of the Parc Naturel Marin de Mayotte in 2010, which encompasses the entire EEZ. Rather than an integral reserve, it aims to protect the sensitive areas within the lagoon system, while developing better-monitored inshore artisanal fisheries as well as domestic and foreign offshore pelagic fisheries[1].

Europa, Bassas da India and Glorieuses were declared Nature Reserves in 1975 (arrêté préfectoral de 1975), and there is a permanent presence on the islands for military and/or civil (meteorology) purposes[2]. Consequently, access to the islands is strictly and effectively controlled, with permits only being given for research. In support of this, a Scientific Committee of the Scattered Islands (CSIE) has been established, as an advisory body to the administration. In 2012, the whole EEZ of Glorieuses was declared an MPA, and steps are underway to declare Europa as a national natural reserve. Europa was designated a Ramsar site in 2011[3]. All islands are administered by the Préfet de la Réunion, which controls access by researchers and tourists. Glorieuses, Bassas da India, Europa and Tromelin became Nature Reserves in 1975.

Marine Protected Areas

Target 5 of the SDG 14 is to conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information by 2020. Nairobi Convention is supporting France to meet the obligations under SDG Targets 14.2 and 14.5 and Aichi Target 11, besides other SDGs by publishing the Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Outlook for the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region.

France has made significant progress towards increasing the total coverage of MPAs in its WIO territories. Currently, France has proclaimed 11 MPAs covering 52.4% of its Exclusive Economic Zone across Réunion, Iles Esparses, and Mayotte. (*Note that the designations employed and the presentations of material do not imply the expressions of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNEP or the Nairobi Convention concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city area or its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries or the designation of its name, frontiers or boundaries.)

These protected areas have given the French territories the opportunity to maintain food and job security; protect their remarkable biodiversity; and safeguard their cultural heritage.

Mayotte Marine Nature Park was created in 2010 by the French government to protect the marine area around Mayotte[4]. At 68,381 km2, this marine protected area encompasses the entire EEZ around the island, which includes marine habitats such as barrier coral reefs, mangroves, and important breeding areas for humpback whales[5]. Maintaining fishing, the primary source of economy and food on the island and creating sustainable development activities are the main challenges in the park.

Europa, Glorieuses, Ilot de Bassas, Bassas de India and Tromelin were each classified as a Réserve Naturelle in 1975[6]. Due to their isolation, the Iles Eparses are subject to very limited human disturbance. Nevertheless, Juan de Nova and Glorioso are situated in the ‘Western Madagascar marine ecoregion’ which is considered vulnerable and one of 22 global ‘Tropical coral’ ecoregions considered most critical for global conservation[7]. The fauna and flora of the archipelago are protected by the TAAF and enforcement is maintained by a permanent military detachment on each of the three main islands. The associated territorial marine waters represent a total of more than 640,000 km.2

Find out more about the Marine Protected Areas in France at the Nairobi Convention Dashboard here.

Marine Spatial Framework

The South-Western Indian Ocean (SWIO) Maritime Spatial Planning (Ocean Metiss) is a project whose main goal is to create a complete, integrated status report on existing factors impacting the local economies and ecosystem (fish stocks, as well as other maritime resources such as renewable energies), and to evaluate the potential offered by the large maritime zone to boost economic development by preserving the rich tropical biodiversity of the concerned territories.

The project is also supported by the intergovernmental organisation of the Indian Ocean State Islands whose members are Mauritius, Comoros, Madagascar and Seychelles.

The Ocean Metiss Marine Spatial Planning project will allow to elaborate a new, horizontal and cross sectoral planning tool, aimed to guide public policies to create a sustainable, integrated, long-term strategy for the SWIO Basin. 

Relevant Laws and Regulations in Réunion

Prefectural decree No. 3122 amending Prefectural decree No. 1743 regulating maritime fisheries and leisure in the departmental waters of La Réunion  (30 December 2010).

Prefectural decree No. 3123 amending Prefectural decree No. 1742 of 15 July 2008 regulating maritime and professional fisheries in the departmental waters of Réunion  (30 December 2010). 

Relevant Laws and Regulations in the European Union

Integrated Maritime Policy (2012)

The EU Integrated Maritime Policy provides coordination between different policy domains and focuses on issues that do not fall under a specific sector policy or that require coordination between different sectors.[1] It prioritizes cross-cutting policies on blue growth; on marine data and knowledge; on maritime spatial planning; on integrated maritime surveillance; and sea basin strategies (e.g. Baltic, Mediterranean). The implementation is backed by funding from EU programmes, for example, on science or infrastructure; through an action plan; and through best practice guidelines.[2]

Marine Strategy Framework Directive

The EU’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) (also referred to as the Marine Directive) was adopted on 17 June 2008 and is the first encompassing piece of EU legislation specifically aimed at the protection of the marine environment and natural resources and creating a framework for the sustainable use of our marine waters. The directive places a legal obligation on EU Member States (MS) to achieve Good Environmental Status (GES). The GES standards, targets and monitoring are required to meet common EU and region-specific guidelines. The MSFD creates marine environmental norms and a mechanism to enforce country compliance with the norms, or ensure best efforts are made to do so (a due diligence verification).

The 2002 Recommendation on Integrated Coastal Zone Management defined the principles of sound coastal planning and management and led to identifying governance forms for defining territorial planning projects based on ICZM. The need for such a tool came from the realisation that despite increasing deterioration of the natural, socio-economic and cultural resources of our European coastal zones, coastal planning activities or development decisions still take place in a sectoral, fragmented, way leading to inefficient use of resources, conflicting claims on space and missed opportunities for more sustainable coastal development.

Water Framework Directive (2000)

The Water Framework Directive is closely linked to the Marine Directive. It sets a goal of achieving Good Status for all EU surface and groundwaters by 2015, tying in with the goal of Good Environmental Status under the Marine Directive. Following an adaptive management approach, it establishes a six-year planning cycle, during which Member States prepare River Basin Management Plans and develop actions and measures to achieve Good Status by 2015. Actions taken will reduce marine pollution from land-based sources and will protect ecosystems in coastal and transitional waters, which are vital spawning grounds for many marine fish species.

Proposal for a Directive establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning and integrated coastal management in 2013

The European Commission launched this initiative on integrated coastal management and maritime spatial planning on 12 March 2013. The proposal takes the form of a draft Directive and aims to establish a framework for maritime spatial planning and integrated coastal management in EU Member States with a view to promote the sustainable growth of maritime and coastal activities and the sustainable use of coastal and marine resources.

The requires that Member States map human activities at sea and identify their most effective future spatial development in maritime spatial plans and to coordinate relevant policies affecting coastal areas in integrated coastal management strategies.

Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is the fisheries policy of the European Union (EU). The CFP aims to conserve fish stocks and reduce overfishing in order to provide EU citizens with a long-term stable, secure and healthy food supply. It sets quotas for which member states can catch each type of fish, as well as encouraging the fishing industry by various market interventions.

Relevant International Treaties and Agreements to which France is a Party

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982)

Popularly known as UNCLOS, the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty, this international agreement defines the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources.

Convention on the Conservation and Management Measures of High Seas Resources

This agreement promotes compliance with international conservation and management measures by fishing vessels on the high seas. The agreement applies to all fishing vessels used or intended for fishing in the high seas.

International Maritime Labour Convention (2006)

The Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) is an international agreement of the International Labour Organisation (‘ILO’) which sets out seafarers’ rights to decent conditions of work. It is sometimes called the ‘Seafarers’ Bill of Rights.

International Convention on Labour in the Fishing Sector

The Convention sets out binding requirements to address the main issues concerning work on board fishing vessels, including occupational safety and health and medical care at sea and ashore, rest periods, written work agreements, and social security protection at the same level as other workers. It aims to ensure that fishing vessels are constructed and maintained so that fishers have decent living conditions on board.

The Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.

Convention on Biological Biodiversity (1992)

This Convention supports France to conserve biological diversity, promote the sustainable use of its components, and encourage equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. Such equitable sharing includes appropriate access to genetic resources, as well as appropriate transfer of technology, considering existing rights over such resources and such technology.

The Convention places a duty on States Parties to conserve biological diversity within their jurisdiction, as well as outside their jurisdiction in certain cases (art. 4); requires States to cooperate in preserving biological diversity in areas out of national jurisdiction (art. 5); conferring responsibility on States Parties for the formulation and implementation of strategies, plans or programmes for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity (art. 6).

Convention on International Trade in Endangered species of Wild Fauna & Flora (Washington, 1973)

This Convention covers animals and plants whether dead or alive, and any recognizable parts or derivatives thereof (art. 1). Appendix I covers endangered species, trade in which is to be tightly controlled; appendix II covers species that may become endangered unless trade is regulated; appendix III covers species that any Party wishes to regulate and requires international cooperation to control trade while appendix IV contains model permits. Permits are required for species listed in appendices I and II stating that export/import will not be detrimental to the survival of the species (arts. 3 and 4).

2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, to provide a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.

One of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted is goal 14: Life below water which aims to sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems from pollution, as well as address the impacts of ocean acidification.

Learn more about SDG 14: Life below Water

[1] Doherty B, Herfaut J, Le Manach F, Harper S and Zeller D (2015) Reconstructing domestic marine fisheries in Mayotte from 1950–2010. Pp. 53–65 In Le Manach F and Pauly D (eds.)

[2] Diren Reunion. 2004. Document de prise en considération pour le classement des Iles Éparses en Réserve Naturelle Nationale.

[3] Handbook 17. (2010). Designating Ramsar Sites. In Ramsar handbooks for the wise use of wetlands (4th ed.).

[4] Parc naturel marin de Mayotte – Parcs naturels marins – Organisation – L’Office – Agence française pour la biodiversité. (2020). Retrieved 8 April 2020, from

[5] MPAtlas » Mayotte. (2020). Retrieved 8 April 2020, from

[6] MPAs in the WIO. (2020). Retrieved 8 April 2020, from

[7] Olson, David & Dinerstein, Eric. (2003). The Global 200: Priority Ecoregions for Global Conservation. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. 89. 10.2307/3298564.