The Pelagos Sanctuary

Dec 3, 2020 | News, Things to see & do

Twenty-one years ago, the Pelagos Agreement on the creation in the Mediterranean of a sanctuary for marine mammals was signed.

What is the Pelagos Sanctuary?

The Sanctuary is a marine area of 87,500 sq. km subject to an agreement between Italy, Monaco and France for the protection of marine mammals in this zone.

It is unique in that the zone is managed by three different authorities and includes coastal areas and international waters that form a large ecosystem of major scientific, socio-economic, cultural and educational interest.

Species in the Pelagos Sanctuary

A rough estimate lists more than 8,500 macroscopic animal species representing between 4%-18% of global marine species. Since the Mediterranean represents only 0.82% of the area and 0.32% of the volume of the world’s oceans, the zone shows remarkable biodiversity.  Some of the species present in the region are:

  • Bottlenose dolphin
  • Common dolphin
  • Cuvier’s beaked whale
  • Fin whale
  • Long-finned pilot whale
  • Monk seal
  • Risso’s dolphin
  • Sperm whale

whale watching code of conduct

Threats to marine mammals in the Pelagos Sanctuary

As with many marine ecosystems the biodiversity undergoes pressure from natural environmental fluctuations and human impact.  Impacts include ship strikes from commercial and freight transport, underwater noise, marine disturbances, bycatch (fishing nets), chemical pollution (macro waste, hydrocarbons, black and grey water) and greenhouse gas emissions.

Commercial marine traffic is especially intense in summer in the western Mediterranean. The Pelagos Sanctuary and its boundaries are impacted, as the area covers two of the Mediterranean Basin’s eight ‘marine traffic concentration zones’ (Genoa and Marseille) with passenger transport companies carrying out around 30 trips a day between the mainland, Corsica and Sardinia.

shipping routes mediterranean

This graphic shows the Pelagos Sanctuary and surrounding shipping lanes (source: International scientific workshop on spatial-temporal noise management, ACCOBAMS Oct ’07)

Consultation for the 2022-2028 Management Plan

The aim of the Pelagos Sanctuary is ‘to ensure a favourable conservation status for marine mammals by protecting them and their habitats from the direct and indirect negative impacts of human activities’.

The Pelagos Agreement launches a consultation for the drafting of the 2022-2028 Management Plan until December 4th, 2020.  Everyone’s contribution is valuable.  You can give your input here via surveys in French or Italian:

Visit the official website here: Pelagos Sanctuary 


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