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avenir méditerranée  -  Save Our Seas, Inc.

If we don't do it, who will?          NoPlasticPlanet.org

 

How It All Started                       www.noplasticplanet.org

It all started back in 1996 with a friendly lunch around the Cap d’Antibes in France. One of the most beautiful places in the French Riviera and home to Herve Guitard. One day, while he and his girlfriend of the time were on their way to lunch when, while exiting the car, they noticed the extraordinary amount of garbage littering the beach and sea right there in front of the restaurant. The girlfriend remarked, and justly so, how incredible it is to see this kind of filth on one of the priciest pieces of real estate in the world.  It was a shock, to say the least, more like a slap in the face which woke up Mr. Guitard. 

The next day he took it upon himself to clean it up. With a crappy little dinghy, an old wet suit and barely there diving equipment he set out to clean up the area they had seen the day before. But as he started, it was evident there would be no end to his day. It wasn’t JUST what they had seen getting out of the car, it was the entire sea bed within eyes view and after many subsequent dives in the area it turned out to be stretching from the Cap d’Antibes on both sides from Antibes to Cannes!

Along these beaches are some of the most prestigious private beaches in the world. Seeing what a good business opportunity this could be, Herve decided to propose his “cleaning services” to all the private beaches in the area. It started out good, the first 4 or 5 beaches agreed to hire his services of cleaning the “under water “ part of their beaches for a modest fee. But soon he came to a beach where the owner’s response was “No. Why should I pay you when it’s not my responsibility.  It’s the Town Halls problem. Let them clean it up!”

So, next Herve visited the Town Hall of Antibes to find out if indeed it was their responsibility and if SO, why weren’t they doing anything about it.  The Town Hall said, “No, it’s not us, it’s the Prefectures’ problem.” So off he went to the city of Grasse to the Prefecture to ask the same question. “Oh no, it’s not us,” they replied. “It’s the responsibility of the French State. You should talk to Paris.”

Starting to feel a bit frustrated at this point, and rightfully so, Herve did get in touch with Paris and found out basically that no one was willing to claim responsibility for the “bottom of the sea.”

The European Blue Flag, given out to all beaches and marinas in Europe IF they meet the criteria for cleanliness doesn’t state that the sea beds are included.  So not only did it become apparent that Herve was going to have to go up against the private owners of the beaches, but also the town of Antibes, Cannes, Nice, etc… AND the prefecture of the state in which these coastal towns are located, AND the officials in Paris AND the European Blue Flag itself. The fight was on!

Well, for a lone citizen who is now facing a great challenge, he took things in order. In April 1996, along with a concerned group of sailors and divers, he created a non-profit, volunteer association, Avenir  Mediterranee – Save Our Seas, devoted specifically to cleaning the bottom of the sea in the area where people spend holiday. For this to become a reality the cleaning process had to begin. How to clean in an ecological way was the next question. Trawling (dragging a net behind a boat) or the use of a vacuum system, two methods already in use for deep sea examination, would cause irreversible damage to the seabed. At this point, he found that the only ecological way to clean is to dive down and manually pick them up. Through this action the “Dustbin Men of the Sea” were born!

He recruited every diver he knew, involved the police and schools. He contacted the medias, radio and TV, and began organizing large scale operations of clean ups from Villefranche to Cannes.  Avenir Mediterranee began being present at the Underwater Film Festival in Juan les Pins, the Salon Nautique in Paris, Voiles d’Antibes , and many other marine related conventions.  He staged fundraising events and publicity stunts. He began standing outside the town halls with the TV reporters and cameras, PILES of underwater garbage, just waiting for the Mayor to show up for work in the morning. The pressure was on.

He was in contact from everyone in the small, but prestigious, town of Antibes all the way up to the Minister of Environment herself, Dominique Voirnet , yet NO ONE would claim responsibility for the sea beds, yet everyone agreed that something had to be done.

He began petitioning citizens and writing multiple letters to the European Blue Flag to get them to include in the criteria of clean beaches the cleaning of the sea beds as well. He began to accumulate numerous celebrities, personalities, musicians, artists and scientists to help in this battle.

In 1998 he acquired the classic Dundee Pied’Bouee, a 75ft wooden ketch from Bretagne , which was restored, as much as a small non profit can restore, with the aid of dozens of volunteers and the sponsorship from “International “ for all the paint and supplies, multiple shipyards and carpenters, “Sony” for all the underwater camera equipment, “Beuchat” for all the diving equipment and even a small financial donation from “Coca Cola France.”  With this vessel he started mapping the areas of underwater dumps using divers and GPS devices.

In 1999 Pied’Bouee arrived on the island of Corsica and for the next year Avenir Mediterranee launched  the project “No Plastic Planet,”  the replacement of supermarket plastic bags for recycled paper bags or reusable bags. This became initiated through participation at “Festventu”, the Festival of the Wind in Calvi. With the signatures of every mayor on Corsica, every nationalist group and concerned citizens, in 2003 Corsica passed a law banning the importation and use of all plastic sacks on the island and now sell their own “green” bags in all their stores. Bravo Corsica. And thanks to Avenir Med for planting that seed.

And that’s how it all started.

 

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