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In pictures: France’s most beautiful coastlines

Frédéric Larrey, Le Conservatoire du littoral | The Dune of Pilat is visited by around 2 million people every year

To celebrate its 40th anniversary this year, France’s coastline protection agency hired photographer Frédéric Larrey to capture the natural areas it was entrusted to preserve. The resulting pictures are breathtaking.

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Founded in 1975, the Conservatoire du littoral, as the public institution is known in France, has brought over 1,400 kilometres of coastline under its domain. From beaches and dunes, to towering cliffs and forests, the areas under the agency’s protection are some of the most beautiful in the country.

Perhaps many of these sites would have been lost over the years. “The Conservatoire was founded to protect fragile areas that feature unique biodiversity,” said spokeswoman Anne Konitz. “It was created during an industrial boom, during a period of runaway urbanization that ravaged much of France and Spain’s Mediterranean coastlines.”

To keep coastline areas safe the Conservatoire literally buys the land, then decides the best way to protect them. Some are turned into national parks, others are managed by local authorities and volunteer groups. The national agency today owns 14 percent of France’s entire coastline, and says its target is to control one-third of it by 2050.

A bird’s-eye view

The Conservatoire is charged with preserving these areas, but also making them accessible to visitors. This dual mission is no easy task at some sites. For example, the Dune of Pilat in France’s south-western coast -- Europe's tallest sand dune -- draws around 2 million tourists annually.

Award-winning French photographer Frédéric Larrey was commissioned last year to photograph the areas protected by the Conservatoire. Taken from his ultra light aircraft, the photos reflect the breathtaking beauty and large diversity of French coastlines.

FRANCE 24 has chosen to highlight 11 photos from the collection. The entire series is on display at the Jardin de Plantes in Paris until September 30, 2015. The exhibit will then go on tour across France until the end of the year.

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