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Pelagos: The Cetacean Sanctuary

Date of Submission: 01/06/2006
Criteria: (vii)(ix)(x)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Ministry for the Environment and Land Protection
State, Province or Region:

Regions: Liguria, Sardegna, Toscana

Ref.: 2032

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The Sanctuary includes marine areas within both inland waters and territorial waters (twelve mile zone) of France, Italy and the Principality of Monaco. It also includes the neighbouring high seas. The Italian regions involved are: Liguria, Sardinia and Tuscany.

The portion of basin between Liguria and Provence have been known since the ancient time to be the home for many species of whales and other marine fauna. The protected area accounts for about 100.000 km2 of international waters between Tolone (France), Capo Falcone (West-Sardinia) and Fosso Chiarore (Tuscany). Nowadays, it is possibile to navigate through this area to study the marine protected species. The natural wealth of this area have inspired by Prince Ranieri III of Monaco, in the autumn of 1970, the creation of a pilot zone aiming to combat marine pollution in this Mediterranean area renowned for its climate that attracts a large amount of tourists as a pleasant place for holidays.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The geographical area involved has a great extension, comprising the territorial waters of three countries: France, Principality of Monaco and Italy. The area has been object of international agreements among which the RAMOGE agreement signed in 1976 by the three countries. This served as a tool to create an established framework aiming at managing and protecting the area in order to preserve its typical characteristics.

The RAMOGE agreement takes its name from the maritime urban settlements involved within the Provence Region in Cote Azure: from Saint Raphael, west to Monaco and east to Genova. The area has been subsequently enlarged from Marseille to La Spezia. The agreement has been endorsed by the Italian Authority through Law 743 dated 24/10/1980. It represents a valid scientific, technical, legal and administrative cooperation tool for the harmonization of the common actions undertaken by the three countries in order to implement an integrated management of the waterfront.. In order to achieve the objectives declared, the agreement has been provided with an operative framework and organized in the following way:

a) the Commission represents the executive body and consists of 7 delegates for each single country, appointed by the signing parties. The Commission carries out several roles: proposes, supports and provides information to Governments, territorial and local Authorities, to the Scientific Community and to the general public;

b) the Technical Commitee is composedby a group of 5 technical experts, for each single country,  and assists the Commission in carrying out its activities;

c) Working groups are in charge of carrying out studies on particolar issues. The Commision is responsible for their mandates and budget;

d) an Executive Secretariat.

The establishment of a protected area for cetaceans was strongly supported by the Tethys Institute, that proposed, in 1990, the establishment of a protection regime of the marine fauna prior to the promotion of the Pelagos Project, envisaging the establishment of a Reserve. Subsequently, the 22nd of March 1993, the representatives of the Ministries for the Environment of France, Italy and the State Minister of the Principality of Monaco, signed, in Bruxelles, a declaration related to the establishment of an International Cetacean Sanctuary in the Ligurean Sea. Nevertheless, the official signature of the agreement was signed the 25th of November 1999, when the three Ministers met in Rome to sign the agreement.

The Cetacean Sanctuary aims at strengthening environmental monitoring of the territory in order to improve prevention and better preserve the natural heritage.

The agreement that officially establishes the Cetacean Sanctuary, is placed in the framework of the Barcelona Convention and more specifically within the Protocol concerning Specially Protected Areas, that sets the establishment of protected coastal marine areas and specially protected areas in the high sea, consisting of 22 articles and aiming at:

a) improving the activities to prevent any type of pollution affecting marine mammals and their habitats;

b) phasing-out inland toxic sewage discharging;

c) banning the capture and intentional violation on marine mammals;

d) regolamentating or banning any kind of motor marine competition;

e) endorsing the community regulations on fishery;

f) regulamentating tourism linked to "whale watching".

The member states, moreover, are committed to support research programmes and awareness araising campaigns to prevent collisions between mammals and boats or to inform the authorities of specimens in difficulty. The agreement between Italy, France and Monaco Principality has been subsequently ratified by the three countries; Italy endorsing through Law 391 dated 11/10/2001, of which is significant Art. 3 that establishes a Pilot Committee, consisting of the peripheral and central administrations of the environmental associations.

Comparison with other similar properties

It is possible to mention the European Sanctuaries of Ireland and of Germany (Wedden Sea) and the establishment, in EU Framework Directive 92/43 "Nature 2000", of the special Areas for the preservation of Cetaceans (in particular bottle-nose dolphins) in the estuary of the Shannon river in Ireland and in the Bay of Cardigan and Moray Firth in Great Britain.

In the rest of the world there are several examples of Cetacean Sanctuaries and protected marine areas in South Africa: the National Park of Oiseaux du Djouji and the National Park of the Saloum delta established in Senegal; the protected marine areas established in Canada, such as National Marine Park for belugas preservation in the area of Saint Lorenz in Quebec and the marine protected area of Gully; also the United States established marine Sanctuaries in the Californian Channel Islands and the National Sanctuary for the protection of Whales; finally, the most relevant case of conservation is, without any doubt, the network of Sanctuaries of Whales in the South Pacific. It has been established in 1994 and covers a marine area of 30 millions of km2. It includes 11 Pacific countries and the Australian Sanctuary represents the largest example of the world (8.6 millions of  km2).