Recreational boaters can constitute a threat to marine animals and plants if the boaters have insufficient knowledge about the biodiversity values of protected marine sites and the impacts of their own activities. For example, they may disturb birds, cause damage to seagrass when mooring, or pollute waters in the protected sites.
As part of the EU LIFE-funded project “LIFE Marha”, the French Office for Biodiversity (OFB) has developed an Android smartphone app, Nav&Co, to allow boaters to better understand the marine environment of the areas they visit, and to be informed of nature protection regulations.
In developing the app, the OFB used nautical charts provided by the Oceanographic and Hydrographic Service of the French Navy, and integrated over 1 000 points of interest identified by the managers of 30 Natura 2000 sites and other marine protected areas. Importantly, the borders of the protected marine areas and the environmental regulations for the sites were also integrated into the maps so that users are notified when they enter a restricted or protected area.
Nav&Co is free to use and provides boaters with information, photographs and educational texts on the marine environment, habitats, species and regulations on biodiversity protection in Brittany, from the Mont Saint Michel to le Croisic.
Testing of the app began in June 2020 and results so far have been very positive. More than 7 000 users downloaded the app during the first summer - which is a very good first step - and boaters expressed positive feedback. In 2023, Nav&Co will be extended to cover all of France and for use on all mobile phones and tablets.