Solar boating, a new art of living in Antibes Juan les Pins
Strolling on board the boat Octopus (seaZen Juan les Pins), one moves in a remarkable protected marine zone, between the Bay of Golfe Juan, Cap d'Antibes and the Lérins Islands. The coastal landscapes are magnificent, in a monochrome of blue and green, between sky, land and sea.
This aquatic jewel of the Côte d'Azur is classified on all the maps of the Nature Conservancy, under various and varied names or more obscure acronyms: Natura 2000 site, Pelagos Sanctuary, ZNIEFF II Sea zone or even the site of the Conservatoire du Littoral (Coastal Conservatory).
- Natura 2000 is the European network of natural sites identified for the quality, rarity or fragility of the natural habitats and the animal and plant species they contain.
- The Pelagos Sanctuary is a marine area of 87500km² where more than 7 different species of marine mammals are protected.
- The zone ZNIEFF II Sea designates a natural area of ecological, faunistic and floristic interest.
- Finally, the Conservatoire du littoral manages the terrestrial coastal territories, but it also holds 161ha of sea around Cap d'Antibes.
The marine wealth of the region
The living world that develops below the surface of the water is abundant and precious at the same time: Posidonia meadows, large mother-of-pearl beds and coralligenous reefs.
Through the crystalline waters, you will see these meadows of underwater greenery which extend from the surface to 40m deep: the Posidonia meadows. This is not an algae, but a flowering plant emblematic of the Mediterranean. It is protected because it is a vital species for the planet: it preserves the coasts from erosion, it is a real nursery where 400 species reproduce, and it is above all the lung of the planet, the champion of all categories which distances the Amazonian forest from it, even if it is less well known. It produces 14 litres of oxygen per day and per m².
One can cross marine turtles, such as the loggerhead turtle, during its migration, but also green turtles or lute turtles, more rarely.
Water birds are also very present: gulls, black-headed gulls, terns, kingfishers, cormorants, grey herons...the list is long.
Thanks to the vertiginous drop-offs off the coast (more than 1000m deep), cetaceans reside here all year round or may be passing through: bottlenose dolphins, blue and white dolphins, fin whales, sperm whales and many others. It is not by chance that the Cetacean Research Group has been based in Antibes for nearly 30 years. It is this organisation that determined that dolphins live permanently on the spot.
The most numerous are the blue and white dolphins that live in the area all year round, and are particularly abundant in summer. Scientific studies estimate their population at nearly 40,000 dolphins living in the Pelagos Sanctuary!
The giant of the marine mammals in the area is the fin whale: it is the 2nd largest animal on the planet. This whale can reach 22m and 70 tons. It is estimated that there are around 1,000 of them in the Sanctuary.
Exceptional but fragile biodiversity
The fascinating landscapes and the fascinating animals that live there, force the admiration of the walkers, but make no mistake: the high human frequentation of the region, as everywhere on the French Riviera, damages the environment and disturbs the natural balances.
The sea is suffering from global warming, and this increase in warm currents has led, for example, to the death of large mother-of-pearl shells in shallow depths (less than 20m) for several years. In fact, a parasite that thrives on warm temperatures is inexorably developing there. The large Mediterranean mother-of-pearl is the largest shell in the world after the tropical clam.
The Posidonia meadows have decreased by 30% in 50 years, torn up, among other things, by the anchors of the super yachts at anchor.
Sea turtles are found stranded, with a stomach full of plastic waste. Turtles, like other species, do not hesitate to swallow an unidentified object in an attempt to feed. The plastic, which is not digestible, then creates intestinal occlusions, or fills the stomach until it prevents the animal from feeding. They can also be hit by a boat when they come to the surface to breathe, creating very serious or even fatal injuries.
Pleasure boating and yachting regroup more than 17 000 boats in the Alpes-Maritimes department and 5000 in Antibes.
The continuous noise of maritime traffic and motorised machinery chases marine mammals away from the coast in the summer period. But beyond disturbing them, the sound waves can cause them injuries, make them deaf or lead them to death, it all depends on the intensity, duration and frequency of the sound. Large cetaceans also suffer accidental collisions with ships launched at high speed.
Human activity therefore has a significant impact on the living world around us. This is why it is essential to approach it, to be close to it in a respectful manner in order to be able to enjoy it for a long time and also to bequeath it to future generations. A well-known message that we often hear, but how can we apply it?
Discover the marine world aboard the solar-powered catamaran: a new way of life
The interest of the solar-powered catamaran is essential in this context:
- The boat runs on solar energy: it does not consume fossil fuels and does not pollute the environment. It has 10m² of photovoltaic panels on its roof (awning). Its hull is made of a silicone coating, which is also non-polluting. It avoids having to coat the floats each year with an anti-fouling product, which releases biocidal substances into the sea to prevent algae and shells from sticking to the boat. The boat is silent, does not contribute to the noise pollution of the underwater world and causes as little disturbance as possible to the animals it encounters. With its low-powered electric motor, it moves forward at low speed (maximum 6 knots, i.e. just under 12 km/h), which makes the risk of collision with an animal on the surface almost nil. The cruising speed is 3 to 4 knots.
- For all these reasons, sailing on board the Octopus is a profound change in the way of looking at nautical tourism in our region. One of the priorities of this new activity is the desire to respect the sea and its inhabitants. It is also a positive way of approaching Ecology: it is not a question of limiting, slowing down or even forbidding oneself (notions of sacrifice often associated with preservation), but quite the opposite. We can cultivate the pleasure of sailing, admiring, photographing, swimming and discovering in conditions of optimal comfort for passengers, and at the same time with minimal impact on the natural environment.
Marvel at the beauty of Nature
Passengers on the Octopus (seaZen Juan les Pins) can enjoy multiple pleasures: admire the scenery or a blazing sunset, but also discover the seabed during a family swim.
The red Mediterranean starfish are among the animals commonly found on the sea bed, their beautiful scarlet colour attracts young and old alike. But more generally, the starfish has marked the history of Nature Protection in a considerable way, did you know that?
The starfish, at the origin of the concept of "keystone" species
Scientist Robert T. Paine is an American zoologist who, in the 1960s, discovered that starfish maintain a fragile balance between all living things in their marine ecosystem. He thus created the concept of "keystone" species, without which all biodiversity would collapse. He explains that when a key species is removed from an environment, the whole living world is disrupted.
In his experiment, he compared a place on the North Pacific coast where the purple starfish lived, and another where he systematically removed all the starfish.
Within a short time, the area where there were no more starfish was emptied of all life, except for the abundance of mussels. By removing their predator, the mussels had proliferated and became the only animal that invaded the surroundings. This discovery became a foundation for modern ecology and nature conservation. It was thus realised that by eliminating an important species, all the other chains of life are disrupted in cascades and ecosystems are impoverished.
Coming back to our Antibes region, being able to admire cetaceans, birds, fish, starfish and Posidonia meadows at the same time is proof that we are at the heart of a rich and high quality Biodiversity. It is our responsibility, and for our greatest pleasure, to preserve it. Practicing solar navigation, collecting floating waste on the surface, reporting an animal in difficulty, photographing the species encountered and the landscapes, raising children's awareness, these are some of the simple actions we can do on board Octopus (seaZen Juan les Pins), whether you are a visitor to the French Riviera or a passionate naturalist.
Immerse yourself in Nature
without prejudicing it,
is to establish a Win/Win relationship
between Man and the Environment.