Educational Managed Marine Area – Understanding, sharing and managing the sea with school pupils
By Phénia Marras-Aït Razouk, French Biodiversity Agency (AFB)
An “Educational Managed Marine Area” (EMMA) is a small coastal area a few km2 wide, managed in a participatory way by primary school pupils. It is an educational and eco-friendly project to help young people better understand and protect the marine environment. The children become part of a local project that draws on the expertise of the school and local municipality, along with user associations and environmental protection groups.
The concept was born in the Marquesas Islands in 2012 after pupils from a school in Vaitahu spoke of their desire to look after a marine area near their school. Following the enthusiasm generated by this first EMMA, the experiment has now been extended to both mainland France and its overseas territories.
Since September 2016, these schools have started to roll out actions and will be awarded their EMMA label in May 2017, depending on the work carried out. To get this label, the pupils must be involved within a “children’s sea council” and need to implement a programme of actions with the help of local sea stakeholders and elected officials. They can conduct an ecological survey in the chosen area involving the children alongside scientific teams; discover the activities within the area and develop new understanding in a real-life situation; discuss the actions to prepare correct management of the area and design a charter.
This network of EMMAs could one day bring together children from different corners of the globe to discuss and discover their respective ecosystems and cultures and to challenge policymakers, users and citizens on their commitments and actions for protecting the ocean.
This programme is coordinated in French Polynesia by the Polynesian Ministry of Education and in mainland France by the national Ministries of the Environment, Overseas Territories and Education. The French Biodiversity Agency is responsible for operational implementation of those projects. In French overseas territories, it will also be supported by the French IFRECOR initiative for coral reefs.