South west France authorities put in forest activity bans over wildfire fears

The region surrounding Bordeaux, the Gironde département, has moved to 'red alert' status for wildfires, according to local authorities. Here is what that means for visitors and residents.

South west France authorities put in forest activity bans over wildfire fears
This aerial view taken on July 29, 2022 shows smoke billowing after wildfires near La Teste-de-Buch, in southwestern France. (Photo by Thibaud MORITZ / AFP)

Local authorities for the Gironde département – home to Bordeaux – have placed the département on ‘red alert’ for forest fires, according to a statement by the préfecture.

This alert is the fourth highest out of five levels of vigilance, and will apply to ‘predominantly forested communities‘ such as Arcachon, la Test-de-Buch and Landiras – the full list of predominantly forested areas in the département can be found HERE.

READ MORE: MAP: Where are the main wildfires in France right now?

Local authorities announced the alert on Sunday, July 31st, and it went into effect Monday, August 1st.

As the south-west region of France prepares for temperatures to rise again this week, local authorities hope to prevent further forest fires from occurring.

READ MORE: Heatwave: What temperatures can we expect in France in August?

Specifically, the alert prohibits people and vehicles from moving in forested area between 2pm and 10pm.

This applies both to vehicles and modes of transport without engines (e.g. bicycles). Circulation during this timeframe will not be allowed on forest roads, rural roads, logging roads, bicycle paths and all other paths and roads in forested areas open to the public.

Click HERE for roads and bike paths closed in the département.

This rule will apply to professional activities in the forests as well – such as logging, forestry, civil engineering, coal and sawmill  operations.

Leisure and sports activities will also be prohibited in such locations during these hours, unless they are carried out specifically in recreational centres or beach areas.

The préfecture also prohibits certain activities within a distance of 200 metres from the woods and forests. These include the use/ setting of fires, smoking, throwing away any flammable or burning trash, incinerating bio (green) waste, wild or isolated camping, and shooting off fireworks in affected areas.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: The rules and options for camping in France

The ‘red alert’ announcement comes after the region has already been significantly impacted by wildfires. Currently, the fire that burned over 7,000 hectares of forest in La Teste-de-Buch (located in the Arcachon Basin) is now classified as “under control,” as of Friday, but it has not yet been extinguished.

Meanwhile, in the Landiras area, located in the southern part of the département, where 13,800 hectares of forest went up in smoke, the fire is no longer spreading, but it is not totally under control yet. 

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Moules-frites in danger: Spider crabs wreak havoc on French mussel population

Warming sea temperatures are bringing more spider crabs to France's coastline, which could spell disaster for the French mussel industry.

Moules-frites in danger: Spider crabs wreak havoc on French mussel population

You may not be able to see it from land, but underwater, an invasive species of spider crabs are ravaging the mussel population on the Western coast of France.

In Normandy and Brittany, mussel farmers are struggling to control the expanding spider crab population – which normally migrates onward, but has stayed put on France’s coasts.

Experts believe the crabs, who feast on mussels and all manner of shellfish, have not continued in their migration due to warming water temperatures, as a result of the climate crisis.

This has left French mussel farmers worried that if the crab population is not controlled, then mussel production could end in the region within a decade. 

Some mussel farmers, like David Dubosco, have lost a significant amount of mussels in just the last year. Dubosco told TF1 that in 2022 he lost at least 150 tonnes.

(You can listen to The Local France team discuss the future of moules-frites in our new podcast episode below. Just press play or download it here for later.)

Dubosco is not alone in his experience. According to reporting by TF1, production across the board will be lower this year 2022, which means that the number of mussels imported from other countries will likely increase, a decision that will not be popular with French consumers who prefer homegrown mussels to make the classic moules-frites.

The proliferation of the spider crabs has been an ongoing problem for the last six years, but due to warming waters, more and more have stayed in French waters.

The crabs do not have many predators besides humans – as they are edible, but the supply has begun to outweigh demand. Additionally, the crabs have grown so big that traditional cages used to trap them are no longer effective, according to Actu France.

On September 21st, over 80 mussel producers staged a demonstration in front of the Manche préfecture in Saint-Lô to demand further measures against this invasive species.

“We have seen the proliferation of spider crabs and our alerts have gone unheeded by the administrative authorities. The species comes to feed on our stocks,” said Vincent Godefroy, head of the “Group of mussel farmers on bouchot” (Groupement des mytiliculteurs sur bouchot) to Actu France. 

In response, the Manche prefecture met with six representatives from the group, eventually publishing a a statement saying it would allow “for the experimentation of new measures” to combat the crabs, which would include dragging them out to sea.

Additionally, government actors and mussel farmers will work together this autumn to conduct a study on the economic value of spider crabs with goals of building up a new industry. The assessment will be made in November.