two publications provide a description of the rationale behind the initial
proposal and an overview of the challenging process leading to the creation
of the Pelagos Sanctuary:
Notarbartolo di Sciara G., Agardy T., Hyrenbach D., Scovazzi T., Van Klaveren P. 2008. The Pelagos sanctuary for Mediterranean marine mammals. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 18:367-391. (358 Kb)
di Sciara G., Hyrenbach D., Agardy T. 2007. The Pelagos Sanctuary
for Mediterranean marine mammals: case study. Available at http://ncep.amnh.org/
The Pelagos Sanctuary
Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals is a special marine protected
area extending about 90.000 km2 in the north-western Mediterranean Sea
between Italy, France and the Island of Sardinia, encompassing Corsica
and the Archipelago Toscano.
Sanctuary waters include the Ligurian Sea and parts of the Corsican
Seas, and contain the internal maritime (15%) and territorial waters
(32%) of France, Monaco and Italy, as well as the adjacent high seas
Coastlines bordering on the Sanctuary are predominantly rocky, with the
exception of eastern Corsica and Tuscany, where they are mostly flat.
Accordingly, within the Sanctuary area the continental shelf is wide
only in correspondence of such limited coastal plains, whereas it
narrow and disseminated with steep, deeply-cut submarine canyons elsewhere.
The western offshore portion of the Sanctuary consists of a uniform
plain 2500-2700 m deep, however east of Corsica the sea bottom is shallower
(1600-1700 m) and uneven. Compared to the rest of the Mediterranean,
marine area is characterised by very high levels of offshore primary
productivity, caused by the interplay of oceanographic, climatic and
factors. A dominant cyclonic current, flowing north along Corsica and
Tuscany and thence hugging the coast of Liguria and mainland France
a westerly direction, creates a permanent frontal system which acts as
a boundary between coastal and offshore waters. Intense biological
is generated along this boundary by the dynamics of the water masses
associated with the front. Such phenomena are seasonally and intermittently
by vertical mixing and coastal upwellings, generated by the prevailing
north-westerly wind ("mistral"), which lift up from the
deep waters into the euphotic zone nutrients and organic substances
by rivers, most notably the Rhone. Consequent high levels of primary
production, with chlorophyll concentrations exceeding 10 g m-3, support
biomass of highly diversified zooplankton fauna, including gelatinous
macrozooplankton and swarming euphausiid crustaceans (krill), Meganyctiphanes
norvegica. Zooplankton, in turn, attracts to the area a various
levels of predators, mammals included.
Sanctuary contains habitat suitable for the breeding and feeding
needs of the entire complement of cetacean species regularly
found in the Mediterranean
Sea; these include fin whales Balaenoptera physalus, sperm whales Physeter macrocephalus,
Cuvier's beaked whales Ziphius cavirostris,
long-finned pilot whales Globicephala melas, Risso's dolphins Grampus griseus, common bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus,
striped dolphins Stenella coeruleoalba, and short-beaked common
dolphins Delphinus delphis. Two such species, fin whales and
striped dolphins, numerically predominate in the Sanctuary, and accounted
over 80% of all cetacean sightings made during summer cruises conducted
in the area between 1986 and 1989. About 3,500 fin whales are found
in the western Mediterranean, most of which concentrate in the Corsican-Ligurian-Provençal
Basin in summer to feed on krill, although whales can be observed there
year-round. Striped dolphins are the most abundant cetaceans throughout
the Mediterranean offshore waters; in the Sanctuary their numbers are
20,000-30,000, and accounted for 60% of all cetacean sightings in 1986-89.
The remaining species, although less important numerically, are also
components of the Sanctuary's cetacean fauna; these include deep-diving
teutophagous odontocetes such as sperm whales, long-finned pilot whales
and Risso's dolphins, frequenting both offshore and slope waters, and
Cuvier's beaked whales, favouring specific areas overlying submarine
now rare and endangered short-beaked common dolphins, found at intervals
in offshore waters, often associated with striped dolphin groups; and
predominantly coastal bottlenose dolphins, frequenting mostly the shelf
areas surrounding Corsica, northern Sardinia, the Tuscan Archipelago,
and continental France. The only other marine mammal found in the Mediterranean,
the monk seal Monachus monachus, was extirpated from the Sanctuary
area in the mid 20th century, but could theoretically re-colonise
in the future if population numbers were to increase in areas where
this pinniped still exists, and should human encroachment of its
in the Sanctuary be lowered to levels acceptable to this shy mammal.
cetacean faunal diversity must coexists in the Sanctuary with very
high levels of human pressure. The greater part of the coastal
areas bordering on the Sanctuary, particularly on the mainland, is heavily
populated and disseminated with large and medium-sized coastal cities,
ports of major commercial and military importance, and industrial areas.
Furthermore, the entire Sanctuary coastal zone contains important
destinations, thereby subject to considerable added human pressure during
the summer months. As a consequence, a range of diverse human activities
exerts several actual and potential threats to cetacean populations in
the Sanctuary, including: habitat degradation, regression and loss
by urban, tourist, industrial, and agricultural development, also associated
with pollutant input in correspondence of the larger agglomerates
river mouths; disturbance from intense maritime traffic (e.g., from passenger,
cargo, military, fishing and pleasure crafts), particularly high in
as well as from a burgeoning whale watching industry, from military exercises,
research activities at sea, and from seismic oil and gas exploration;
a growing risk of collisions with vessels, also in connection with the
increase of high-speed passenger transportation; and mortality caused
by the accidental entanglement in pelagic driftnets, which continue to
be used in the area in spite of a ban on driftnetting imposed on fleets
of European member states.
history of Pelagos:
project for the creation of a Biosphere Reserve in the Corso-Ligurian
1990 the Tethys Research Institute proposed to the European Association
Rotary for the Environment a project for the establishment of a
marine protected area, a
Biosphere Reserve, in the high seas encompassing
the most important habitat for cetaceans in the region. The rationale
behind the proposal, which was named Project Pelagos, included:
the ecological representativeness of the area, its high species diversity,
its intense biological activity, the presence of critical habitat for
a number of pelagic species including cetaceans, and the opportunities
that the area offered to baseline research.
importantly, the proposal openly intended to challenge the mainstream
legal notion of the time that establishing a protected area in the
was impossible. Project Pelagos envisaged the creation of
a Biosphere Reserve in the high seas of the Ligurian-Corsican-Provençal
Basin, as well as the establishment of an international authority, headquartered
in the Principality of Monaco, responsible for the sustainable management
and conservation of the basins natural resources. With the support
of the Rotary Clubs of Milan, Monaco and Saint Tropez (France), the European
Association Rotary for the Environment and Tethys presented Project
Pelagos to the public in Monaco in March 1991, at the presence of
Prince Rainier III, who granted the support of the Principality and recommended
that a sanctuary for cetaceans be eventually created in the Ligurian-Corsican-Provençal
basin through a trilateral agreement among France, Italy and Monaco
idea was rapidly endorsed by a number of NGOs, notably the WWF and
(created in France in 1992), and prompted as well Resolution 19.92 concerning
the Establishment of a Marine Sanctuary for Large and Small Cetaceans
in the Ligurian Sea, Western Mediterranean by the IUCN General Assembly
in Buenos Aires in 1994. Within a year Project Pelagos had
also attracted the attention of the environment ministers of Italy and
France, who decided to join Monaco in the effort. A number of intergovernmental
meetings was organised thereafter, producing a joint declaration of intention
concerning the institution of a Mediterranean sanctuary for marine
mammals, signed in Brussels in March 1993 by officials of the three
countries. After a five-year lull due to a diminished interest for the
sanctuary concept by the French and Italian administrations of the time,
although several initiatives like Recommendation 19.92 (Establishment
of a marine
Sanctuary for large and small cetaceans in the Ligurian Sea, Western
Mediterranean) approved by
the IUCN General Assembly in January 1994, the attention towards the
issue was rekindled in Italy in 1998 by vigorous lobbying by the NGO
community, and by members of the Italian Parliament.
- The birth of the idea
Tethys Research Institute proposes the" Pelagos Project",
envisaging the creation of a Biosphere Reserve in the Corso-Ligurian
has the highest sighting frequency of cetaceans and possibly represents
the richest area in the Mediterranean Sea. The Basin is most likely
to be the principal feeding ground for fin whales in the region
- 1st official step
of the Environment of France and Italy, and the Minister of State of
the Monaco Principality, signed in Brussels a joint declaration for
the institution of a Mediterranean Sanctuary for the protection and
conservation of marine mammals.
- One step forward for Mediterranean Cetaceans
29 September 1998 the Ligurian Sea Cetacean Sanctuary came one
step closer to life after the Italian Government officially agreed
on a proposal which will be shortly forwarded to France and the
Principality of Monaco. The proposal involves the establishment
of an international protected area for cetaceans in the Mediterranean
Sea, approx. 90,000 km2 wide, comprised between the
continental coast of Italy, Monaco and France, Corsica, and northern
Sardinia. Aims of the Sanctuary will be, among other things,
to monitor cetacean population trends, facilitate the enforcement
of existing legislation to curb pollution, regulate a budding
whale watching industry, and increase awareness among the general
public. Driftnets should no longer pose a significant threat
to cetaceans in the area, as this fishing method is being phased
out from European waters by the European Commission.
1999 - Italy, France and Monaco meet in Rome to sign the Agreement that
creates the Ligurian Sea Cetacean Sanctuary
25 November 1999 the Ministers of Italy, France and Monaco met in Rome
to sign the final agreement that creates the Ligurian Sea Cetacean Sanctuary.
The Sanctuary area of approximately 90,000 Km2 comprises the
waters between Toulon (French Riviera), Capo Falcone (western Sardinia),
Capo Ferro (eastern Sardinia) and Fosso Chiarone (Tuscany).
- The Sanctuary becomes a SPAMI
November 2001 the Parties to the Barcelona Convention adopted the
decision of inscribing
the Sanctuary in the List of the Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean
- The Sanctuary Agreement enters into force
by Monaco (2000), France (2001) and Italy (2002), the Sanctuary Agreement
into force on the 21st of February 2002.
- Conference of the Parties of the Sanctuary Agreement
7 December 2005 the Extraordinary Conference
of the Parties
of the Sanctuary Agreement establishes
the office of the Executive Secretariat in Genoa, Italy,
the prestigious Palazzo Ducale. During the Conference,
to include the Sanctuary in the UNESCO World Heritage
on the creation of a Mediterranean Sanctuary for marine mammals
version by ICRAM)
The Parties to the present Agreement:
- Considering the threats encountered by Mediterranean marine mammals
and in particular on their habitats,
- Considering that in the Mediterranean Sea there is an area within the
distribution range of these animals, that is of particular importance
for their conservation,
- Considering that according to the United Nations Convention on the Law
of the Sea, the area in question is in part constituted by waters, with
respect to which, each of the Contracting Parties exercises its sovereignty
- Considering that the European Community, as regards to two of the state
parties, exercises complete competence in the field of conservation and
management of living aquatic marine resources; that the technical measures
of conservation of fishery resources in the Mediterranean are currently
established by EC Council Regulation No. 1626/94, of 27.06.94,
- Recognising that as regards to two state parties, the provisions that
will be adopted in the application of the present Agreement cannot prejudice
the relevant Community principles and provisions, neither that they may
put in question their obligation and duties as EC member states,
- Keeping in mind the treaties and the other relevant international instruments,
- the conventions on the conservation of migratory species of wild fauna
and the relating convention on the conservation of European habitats and
- the international convention for the regulation of whaling and the Agreement
for the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Mediterranean and Black Seas
and Contiguous Atlantic areas,
- the Convention for the Protection of the marine environment and the
coastal region of the Mediterranean, and its relative Protocols,
wishing to take action for the conservation of Mediterranean marine mammals,
have agreed as follows:
With respect to the present Agreement:
a) a conservation status is deemed to be "favourable" when
the knowledge on the populations, indicate that the marine mammal species
of the region are maintaining themselves as a viable component of their
b) the term "habitat" means any part of the range area of marine
mammals, temporarily or permanently occupied by them, and utilised in
particular for reproductive, birthing, feeding activities as well as
c) the term "taking" means the hunting, the capturing, the
killing and the harassment of marine mammals including the attempt to
1. The parties establish a marine sanctuary within the area of the Mediterranean
Sea as defined in article 3, whose biological diversity and richness represent
an indispensable attribute for the protection of marine mammals and their
2. The Parties will protect all species of marine mammals within the Sanctuary.
The sanctuary is composed of maritime areas situated within the internal
waters and territorial seas of the French Republic, the Italian Republic
and the Principality of Monaco, as well as portions of adjacent high seas.
The limits of the sanctuary are the following:
- to the west, a line extending from Point Escampobariou (western point
of the Giens peninsula: 4301'70'N, 0605"90''E) to Cape Falcone,
situated on the western coast of the island of Sardinia (4058'00''N,
- to the east, a line extending from Cape Ferro, situated on the north-eastern
coast of Sardinia (4109'18''N, 00931'18''E) to Fosso Chiarone, situated
on the western Italian coast (4221'24''N, 01131'00''E).
The Parties undertake to adopt within the sanctuary, the appropriate measures
mentioned in the following articles, so as to ensure the favourable conservation
status of marine mammals, by protecting both them and their habitat, from
any negative direct or indirect impacts resulting from human activities.
The Parties shall co-operate with the intent of periodically assessing
the marine mammal population status, the causes of mortality, and the
threats interfering on their habitat and in particular on their biological
functions such as feeding and reproductive activities.
1. Taking into account their international obligations, the Parties shall
conduct monitoring activities within the Sanctuary and shall intensify
the fight against any form of pollution, whether of maritime or land-based
origin having or likely to have a direct or indirect impact on the marine
mammal conservation status.
2. The Parties will adopt national strategies aimed at phasing out the
release of toxic compounds within the sanctuary, giving priority to substances
listed in Annex I of the Protocol against Pollution from Land Based Sources
and Activities of the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean
Sea against Pollution.
Within the Sanctuary the Parties:
a) will forbid any deliberate take or intentional disturbance of marine
mammals; however the non -lethal take of individuals shall be authorised
in case of emergency situations or within the scope of scientific activities
carried out "in situ" and in compliance with the terms of this
b) will comply with the international regulations and those of the European
Community, regarding the use and the keeping of fishing equipment known
as "pelagic drift net",
c) will exchange their view, as deemed necessary, to promote in the appropriate
fora and after scientific evaluation, the adoption of regulations relating
to the use of new fishing equipment that could result in the indirect
capture of marine mammals or that could endanger their sources of prey,
while also considering the risk of loss of or deliberate disposal of fishing
equipment at sea.
In the sanctuary, Parties shall regulate the watching of marine mammals
for touristic purposes.
The Parties will exchange views with the aim of regulating and if appropriate,
forbidding high-speed motorboat competitions within the Sanctuary.
The Parties exchange their views in order to harmonise, as far as possible,
the regulation measures pursuant to the previous articles.
Without prejudice of the relevant provisions of international law and
if appropriate of the European Community regulations, nothing of the preceding
dispositions will prevent the Parties from enacting stricter national
1. The Parties will hold regular meetings for the putting in action and
the follow-up of the present Agreement. The Parties establish the organisational
aspects required for such meetings taking into account the presence of
already existing structures.
2. In this framework they shall favour and encourage:
a) national and international research programs geared to establish the
scientific aspects of application of the present Agreement;
b) awareness-building campaigns geared at professional and other marine
users, and non-governmental organisations, with particular emphasis on
campaigns regarding the prevention of collision between vessels and marine
mammals and the need to communicate the presence of dead or distressed
mammals to the competent local authorities.
In order to ensure the application of the measures included in the present
Agreement the Parties appeal, in particular, to the authorities responsible
for maritime patrolling. They agree to exchange all relevant information
recorded in this context. To this purpose the Parties will facilitate
the mutual use of their air and maritime ports through simplified procedures.
1. In the part of the sanctuary located within the waters subject to its
sovereignty or jurisdiction, each of the State Parties to the present
Agreement is responsible for the application of the relevant provisions.
2. In the other parts of the sanctuary, each of the State Parties is responsible
for the application of the provisions of the present Agreement with respect
to ships flying its flag as well as, within the limits provided for by
the rules of international law, with respect to ships flying the flag
of third States.
Nothing in the present Agreement will prejudice the sovereign immunity
of warships or other ships owned or operated by a State while engaged
in government non-commercial service. However, each Contracting Party
shall ensure that its vessels and aircraft entitled to sovereign immunity
under international law, act in a manner consistent with the present Agreement.
As soon as the Protocol concerning specially protected areas and biological
diversity in the Mediterranean enters into force for them, the Parties
will present a joint proposal for inclusion of the sanctuary in the list
of specially protected areas of Mediterranean importance.
1. The Parties invite other States, exercising activities within the area
defined in Art. 3, to take protection measures similar to those foreseen
by the present Agreement, taking into account the Action Plan adopted
within the UNEP/MAP framework for the conservation of cetaceans in the
Mediterranean and the Agreement on the conservation of cetaceans of the
Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic area, or any other
2. The present Agreement is communicated to all international organisations
competent at the international or regional level, as well as to the Parties
to the Convention for the protection of the marine environment and the
coastal region of the Mediterranean.
The present Agreement is subject to ratification, acceptance or approval
by the signatory parties.
1. The instruments of ratification, acceptance or approval will be deposited
with the Government designed as depositary of the present Agreement.
2. The present Agreement will enter into force on the thirtieth day following
the date of deposit of the instruments of ratification, acceptance or
approval of the signatory Parties.
1. The Parties may invite any other interested State or international
organisation to accede to the present Agreement. Accession will be open
after the entry into force of the Agreement.
2. The present Agreement will enter into force, with regard to the acceding
Parties, on the thirtieth day following the date of deposit of the instrument
of accession, acceptance or approval.
1. Any Party may ask for the convening of a conference for the revision
of the Agreement. All revisions will require the agreement of the signatory
2. Ant Party may denounce the Agreement. The denunciation will take effect
three months after its notification to the depositary. The denunciation
by an acceding Party will not cause the termination of the Agreement for
the other Parties.
1. The present Agreement, written in the Franch and Italian languages,
each version being equally authentic, is deposited with the archives of
the Government of the Principality of Monaco.
2. The present agreement will be registered by the depositary in conformity
to Art. 102 of the Charter of the United Nations.
Rome, on the 25th of November 1999.
For the Principality of Monaco
For the French Republic
For the Italian Republic
The representatives of the three signatory Parties express their satisfaction
for the happy finalisation of a document on which they have worked for
more than six years. Being it understood that, as with all human work,
this agreement is perfectible, it represents the first crucial step towards
a real and effective protection of mammals in the western Mediterranean.
Without waiting for the ratification procedures, the signatory Parties
will as from today endeavour to facilitate the application of the Agreement
by establishing the bases for the management of the sanctuary.
The signatory Parties may rely on the work already accomplished by themselves
at the state and the territorial entities level. In particular, the experience
gained within the RAMOGE agreement will positively contribute to the establishment
and management of the sanctuary.
The Parties hope that, besides the rapid fulfilment of the undertakings
embodied in the Agreement by the competent authorities of the State and
territorial entities, studies on a certain number of points that may complete
the substance of the Agreement be conducted, applying the precautionary
principle. This refers in particular to the consequences on marine mammals
of the use of means for seismic and acoustic prospection and detection,
as well as the possible exploitation of non-living natural resources.
Lastly, the question of noise and speed of vessels, already addressed
in the Agreement with regard to high-speed motorboat races, will need
to be also examined.