France raises fines in time for World Ocean Day

France has doubled the fine for littering amid outcry over images of surgical masks and gloves floating in the ocean.
Junior Ecology Minister Brune Poirson announced on Sunday that fines for littering will increase from €68 to €135, rising to €375 in case of non-payment. People could even face a penalty of up to €750 if the case is taken to court and police are required to prepare a report.
“Plastic waste linked to the Covid-19 crisis reminds us that if we want clean oceans, it starts with clear sidewalks,” wrote the junior minister on Twitter.
The announcement by the French government came just a day ahead of World Oceans Day on Monday 8th June and two weeks after a video filmed by activist Laurent Lombard showed a sharp increase in Covid-related pollution off the coast of Antibes. The video, headlined ‘How about swimming with Covid-19 this summer?’ for NGO Opération Mer Propre (Operation Clean Sea) has since gone viral.
The sight of discarded masks littering the Med sharply contrasts with more positive pictures of nature seemingly benefiting from coronavirus lockdowns.
Monaco Blue Initiative
Brune Poirson, who is now calling on the French to choose fabric masks over disposable ones, also delivered a keynote address during the opening session of the 11th edition of the Monaco Blue Initiative on Thursday 28th May, saying that Covid-19 has increased recognition of the One Health approach, which acknowledges that the health of people is closely connected to the health of animals and our shared environment.
In his virtual welcome address, Prince Albert II of Monaco said that the Covid-19 crisis has shown the level of vulnerability of societies, noting the importance of this session in ensuring the engagement of all stakeholders, including coastal communities, in effective management of Marine Protected Areas.
Further virtual workshops are scheduled for 9th and 24th June.

Prince Albert and France’s Junior Ecology Minister Brune Poirson during the first session of Monaco Blue Initiative on 28th May, courtesy Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation

RAMOGE – Man and the Sea
World Oceans Day also saw the launch of the RAMOGE Agreement international photography competition, entitled ‘RAMOGE – Man and the Sea’.
As part of its awareness-raising activities, the RAMOGE Agreement invites all lovers of both the sea and photography to highlight the relationship between human activities and the Mediterranean – positive or negative.
RAMOGE is the international cooperation agreement for the preservation of the coast and the marine environment between France, Monaco and Italy for the area between Marseille and La Spezia.
The competition is free and open to everyone and runs until 15th September.
A word from the Prince
Also to mark World Oceans Day on 8th June, Prince Albert II of Monaco released a video message, saying in, part: “As our world becomes aware of its weaknesses, as everyone wonders how to reinvent our economies and societies, we must all mobilise to ensure that the oceans are at the heart of the world that we need to rebuild”.

Top photo: Screengrab of video taken by Laurent Lombard