The International Sanctuary of Mediterranean Marine Mammals

The island of Elba along with the other islands of the Tuscan Archipelago are the heart and soul of the International Cetacean Sanctuary, an international protected marine area that came to be in 1999 thanks to an agreement between Italy (in Italy the Sanctuary of Sea Mammals was created in 1991 as a Protected Natural Marine Area), France and the Principality of Monaco.

The Pelagos Sanctuary (as it is called in France) is a sea area run by three different countries, and is considered an interesting "large ecosystem" from a scientific, social-economic and educational point of view.

Thanks to the area being so rich in plancton and mammals that live in the open sea, the area that makes up the International Sactuary of Marine Mammals is the perfect habitat for the reproduction and nutritional needs of the Mediterranean cetaceans: Whales, Cachalots, Striped Dolphins, Long-finned Pilot Whales, Killer Whales, Bottlenose Dolphins, Beaked Whales and Dolphins, as well as Mediterranean Manta Rays, Sea Turtles and Monk Seals which for many years seemed to have disappeared.

It is easy to catch a glimpse of dolphins and whales in the waters of the Tuscan islands, because thankfully in recent years the number on the Island of Elba has grown considerably, so during the summer months tours and boat excursions are organized with the precise aim of spying these wonderful cetaceans.

The International Sanctuary of Marine Mammals is a sea area of about 87,500 square kilometresin the northern part of the Tyrrhenian Sea, and goes from Provence to Sardinia as far as Tuscany: the reference points on land are Pointe Escampobariou in France, Capo Falcone and Capo Ferro in the north of Sardinia, and Fosso Chiarone in Tuscany.[img index="1" params="format=ms&class=image-r"][/img

The Sanctuary includes 124 French communes (between the Costa Azzurra and Corsica), 87 Italian ones (in Liguria, Tuscany and northern Sardinia) an 1 in the Principality of Monaco.

The agreement, that was made on February 21st 2002, aims at promoting concrete agreements and activities on behalf of the three members that have signed, with the sole intent of protecting both the natural habitat of the cetaceans and its inhabitants.

They try to reach this goal from several different fronts:

  • Fighting all types of pollution that may in any way endanger the sea mammals and/or their habitat;
  • Clearing the areas of any toxic waste coming from land;
  • not permitting the capture of the sea mammals or causing them any harm;
  • limiting or forbidding any sports where engines are involved;
  • ensuring that all fishing rules and regulations are obeyed;
  • ensuring tourists respect the rules as regards whale-watching.

The countries that have signed the agreement will do their best to encourage scientific research projects and organise public awareness campaigns to limit collisions between ships or boats and sea mammals as much as possible, and will immediately inform the authorities of any animal in trouble.

Finally, on an international front, they ask that the Sanctuary be included in the ASPIM list (Aree Specialmente Protette di Importanza Mediterranea), and that other countries adopt safety and protection measures in their waters too, so that an international agreement can be dawn up.

Download the detailed information from the Tuscan Observatory for Biodiversity >

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