BLOOM opposes a decree that reveals Emmanuel Macron’s environmental cynicism

Paris, 8 June 2022 – World Ocean Day.

Today, on World Ocean Day, BLOOM is taking legal action against a government decree that is dangerous for marine biodiversity and the climate.

Discreetly published in the media saturation of the day following the first round of the presidential election, the decree unveils the firm anti-environmental intentions of Emmanuel Macron’s project.

Published on 12 April 2022 in the French Official Journal, this decree [1] undermines the definition of “highly protected” areas that will be applied to 10% of our supposedly “most” protected marine areas (MPAs). Mr. Macron’s “High Protection” standards should translate in the creation of “no-take” zones, but with the decree, they don’t even match the basic MPA definition by IUCN standards.

This visible dishonest maneuver allows the French President to reach the protection goals he announced as of 2019 without having to truly protect the ocean. As formulated [2], the text aims for the “avoidance” or “significant limitation” of impactful human activities. It does not call for their categorical prohibition, as they should be in any so-called Marine “Protected” Area according to international IUCN standards. [3]

In other words, the decree, which is supposed to provide the highest level of protection by French norms, does not even match the most basic level of protection by international standards.

High Protection “à la française” means authorizing destructive industrial activities. This is a blatant contradiction of the commitments Mr. Macron made before the international community. 

Mr. Macron receives praise on the international scene although he serves the interests of mining and fishing industries. Highly protected areas should not only completely prohibit industrial activities but any human activity at all, including small-scale fishing.

The destruction of the very concept of Marine Protected Areas

France already calls, in an assumed lie, “Marine Protected Area” a zone where destructive activities are not forbidden. However, the MPA classifications proposed by the international community are unequivocal: according to the IUCN, [4] a “Marine Protected Area” cannot be considered “protected” if it allows industrial extractive activities (including fishing) or industrial infrastructures. [5] A Marine Protected Area, in the broadest sense, therefore prohibits industrial activities but allows small-scale fishing. On the other hand, “fully protected” areas are defined as follows: ”No extractive or destructive activities are allowed; all abatable impacts are minimized.” [6] These zones thus prohibit all human activities, including artisanal fishing.

President Macron promised to create 10% of “highly protected” areas that he qualified as “fully natural” zones out of his 30% by 2030 commitment to protect the ocean.

While 30% of the French EEZ should correspond to the IUCN definition of an MPA (no industrial activities), the 10% should correspond to “fully protected” areas (no-take zones).

The French imbroglio of definitions results in the destruction of the very concept of Marine Protected Areas but allows the President to appear before the media and the international community as a champion of the environment.

This text is obviously no coincidence: by reconstructing its genesis, we understand the cynical calculation of the Macron government.

Emmanuel Macron’s environmental cynicism

The chronology is striking: in 2019, President Macron officially announced ambitious objectives for the protection of the ocean, required by the dual crisis of biodiversity and climate. At the ‘Assises de la mer’ in December 2019 [7], and then again at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, hosted by France in September 2021 in Marseille, Emmanuel Macron reminded that he had committed “to have 30% of Marine Protected Areas and 10% of highly protected areas.” [8]

These widely publicized and applauded targets [9] made Emmanuel Macron a champion of nature conservation on the national and international stage.

On February 11, 2022, for the closing speech of the “One Ocean Summit” held in Brest, Emmanuel Macron announced that France would “double its highly protected areas” by “increasing them from 2 to 4%. He added that “we are on the right track to reach our 10% goal by 2030.” [10]

The President could afford making such an announcement because: 1) the newly designated protected areas were located in French southern waters, where very little fishing activity takes place, and 2) Emmanuel Macron knew that a decree undermining the notion of “highly protected” areas had already been drafted (the public consultation on the decree was even closed a week before Macron’s announcement on 5 February 2022). [11]

This decree reveals two things. Firstly, that the French government has no intention of protecting the ocean from industrial activities, not even on a reduced portion of 10% of French waters. Secondly, it shows that the government does not limit itself to environmental “inaction”. On the contrary, with regards to ecology, the Macron government’s cynical project is meticulously thought out and orchestrated. Its strategy is to lie methodically to mask their resolute bias in favor of destructive extractive industries, against citizens’ interest and the planet.

A major issue for the climate, biodiversity and the future of small-scale fishing

The stakes are high because this decree defines the standard that will serve as a reference for the future management of MPAs. This text therefore sets the level of our ambition to restore the health of the ocean and of small-scale French fisheries, destroyed by decades of unfair competition with industrial fisheries.

This decree comes at a time when the IPCC and IPBES are calling for strong, determined and immediate action to protect the climate, natural habitats and living species. It also comes at a time when the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) are in the process of revising their nature protection objectives, so that 30% of the ocean is protected by 2030, as recommended by the IUCN.

The French Presidency promised ecological excellence but is orchestrating an anti-environment status quo. It is time to put words into action so that France’s MPA national strategy fulfils its objectives, as stated in the French Environmental Code.

For all of the reasons above, BLOOM is filing today, with the assistance of the law firm TTLA, an ex gratia appeal asking Mr. Macron’s government to withdraw this decree.

In its current state, the decree undermines international ecological ambition for the ocean by creating a legal definition where extractive industries will be able to pursue their destructive activities in supposedly “protected” areas.

BLOOM calls on the government to adopt a clear definition of the levels of marine protection, in line with international standards and with the scientific recommendations of the Marine Protected Areas Guide: [13].

  1. A “Marine Protected Area” prohibits all extractive activities or industrial infrastructure (including fisheries) [14]. This definition corresponds to the “highly protected” category according to the scientific guidelines: “Only light extractive activities are allowed with low total impact, with all other abatable impacts minimized.” [15] The scientific guidelines therefore specify that “highly protected” areas allow a small number of research or artisanal fishing activities if the methods are low-impact. [16] The scientific definition of “highly protected” areas should already apply to the 30% of the so-called Marine “Protected” Areas in our EEZ. What France calls Marine “Protected” Areas should correspond to the “highly protected” category of scientific recommendations.
  2. A “fully protected” MPA prohibits any extractive or destructive activity. [17] This category does not allow any human activity and should apply to the 10% of MPAs that the government promised to classify as “fully natural” — a promise it is now trying to break. What Emmanuel Macron’s government is also doing, by levelling down the entire definition of MPAs, is to bury the concept of “fully protected” areas. These so-called “no-take” zones are nevertheless those that scientists evaluate as the most effective, as they allow the most spectacular recovery of biodiversity and marine habitats.

It is only by adopting the classifications proposed by the scientific community that the French government will be able to implement MPAs with protection standards that will truly be effective for the preservation of biodiversity and the fight against climate change. France has the world’s second largest maritime, after the United States. At a time when species and the climate are collapsing, controling such a large maritime area creates a specific responsibility.


For more information

  • BLOOM’s demand to the Court of Auditors to investigate the millions of euros spilled into the creation of falsely protected MPAs has topped the votes on the citizen platform opened by the Court until May 2022.
  • The LREM group in the European Parliament recently opposed a basic measure to protect so-called Marine ‘Protected’ Areas by orchestrating a successful political strategy to prevent the vote on an amendment proposing a ban on bottom trawling (one of the most destructive fishing techniques) in MPAs. See BLOOM’s analysis.
  • At the international level, the protection of the oceans took a leap forward at the 10th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya in 2010, [18] where states adopted the Aichi Targets to protect 10% of the oceans and seas by 2020. These targets are being revised upwards to 30% of the seas and oceans by 2030 as recommended by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). [19] These new objectives are expected to be adopted during the 15th Conference of the Parties of the CBD.
  • On November 14, 2019, Elisabeth Borne, then Minister of the Environmental and Solidarity Transition, stated that she committed France to the creation of “a network of Marine Protected Areas covering 30% of our spaces, one third of which will be highly protected“.
  • Read the article by BLOOM’s founder Claire Nouvian in Le Monde following the One Ocean Summit in Brest “The ocean summit confirmed Macron’s environmental method: instrumentalize announcements before the elections“.


[1] Decree n°2022-527 of 12 April 2022 taken in application of article L. 110-4 of the environment code and defining the notion of strong protection and the modalities of the implementation of highly protected areas.

[2] The decree states, in unintelligible jargon (the syntax problems in the wording are not due to a copy and paste error on our part. This is how the decree is formulated) that a highly protected MPA “is a geographical area in which the pressures generated by human activities likely to compromise the conservation of the ecological issues of this area are avoided, eliminated or significantly limited, and this in a permanent way, thanks to the implementation of a land protection or an adapted regulation, associated with an effective control of the activities concerned.”

[3] Kirsten Grorud-Colvert et al, “The MPA Guide: A framework to achieve global goals for the ocean”, Science373, no. 6560 (September 2021),; Bárbara Horta e Costa et al, “A Regulation-Based Classification System for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)”, Marine Policy72 (October 2016): 192-98, .06.021; IUCN French Committee, “Les zones de protection forte en mer, état des lieux et recommandations”, 2021; European Commission, “Criteria and Guidance for Protected Areas Designations -Staff Working Document”.

[4] Resolution WCC-2016-Res-050-EN paragraph 2: “ENCOURAGES IUCN State and Government Agency Members to designate and implement at least 30% of each marine habitat in a network of highly protected MPAs and other effective area-based conservation measures, with the ultimate aim of creating a fully sustainable ocean, at least 30% of which has no extractive activities, subject to the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities”

[5] This definition is taken from the IUCN recommendations and the guidelines for their implementation. “The World Conservation Congress […] CALLS ON governments to prohibit environmentally damaging industrial activities and infrastructure development in all IUCN categories of protected area. IUCN Resolutions, Recommendations and other Decisions World Conservation Congress Honolulu, Hawaii, United States of America, 6-10 September 2016”, September 2016.

[6] MPA Guide

[7]”I have set the objective of reaching 30% of Marine Protected Areas, one third of which should be fully natural by 2022.” [Translated from French]

[8] Emmanuel Macron, “Speech by Mr Emmanuel Macron at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille“, September 2021.

[9] These objectives are endorsed by Law n°2021-1104 of 22 August 2021 “on combating climate change and strengthening resilience to its effects” – see Art. 227 (article L.110-4 of the Environment Code).

[10] Emmanuel Macron, “Déclaration de M. Emmanuel Macron, président de la République, sur la préservation de l’Océan mondial, à Brest le 11 février 2022“,, 11 February 2022.

[11] Ministry of Ecological Transition, “Projet de décret pris en application de l’article L. 110-4 du code de l’environnement et définissant la notion de protection forte et les modalités de la mise en œuvre de cette protection forte“, 14 January 2022.

[12] IUCN, “WCC-2016-Res-050-EN Increasing the extent of marine protected areas to ensure effective biodiversity conservation”.

[13] Grorud-Colvert et al, “The MPA Guide”.

[14] This definition is derived from the IUCN recommendations, as well as from the guidelines for the application of the IUCN global standards. “The World Conservation Congress […] CALLS ON governments to prohibit environmentally damaging industrial activities and infrastructure development in all IUCN categories of protected area.” IUCN Resolutions, Recommendations and other Decisions World Conservation Congress Honolulu, Hawaii, United States of America, 6-10 September 2016, September 2016.

[15] Scientific recommendations of the Marine Protected Areas Guide Grorud-Colvert et al., “The MPA Guide”.

[16] The definition states: “only infrequent use of a few selective and low-impact gear types. Examples of gears include cast nets, intertidal hand capture, single lines, spearfishing (free diving only), traps (lobster, octopus, crab), fish traps (over soft bottom habitat), hand dredges for bivalves, and low-impact traditional extraction. There may only be up to 5 of these types of gears in use in the MPA, and the “same” fishing gear may count up to three times if used commercially, recreationally, and for cultural reasons (i.e., as three different gear types).” [Translated from French]

[17] MPA Guide.

[18] COP10 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, “Decision adopted by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity at its tenth meeting“, 2010.

[19] IUCN, “WCC-2016-Res-050-EN Increasing the extent of marine protected areas for effective biodiversity conservation“, accessed 25 May 2022.


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