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The Pelagos Sanctuary is a maritime area covering 87,500 km2, and is the subject of an agreement between Italy, Monaco and France. Its purpose is to protect marine mammals in the Mediterranean.

On 25 November 1999, the Pelagos Agreement, which created a sanctuary for marine mammals in the Mediterranean, was signed in Rome by France, Italy and the Principality of Monaco. The three countries were keen to take joint action to protect cetaceans from disruption caused by human activities: noise pollution, risks of collision with commercial shipping, tourist activities and plastic pollution.

The sanctuary was born out of the realisation, in the 1980s, that there was remarkable biodiversity in this area. Scientists estimate that it is home to more than 8,500 macroscopic animal species, from the fin whale, the second-largest animal on the planet, to small crustaceans.

This population accounts for between 4% and 18% of global marine species, even though the Mediterranean represents just 0.82% of the surface area of the planet’s oceans. The Pelagos Sanctuary is recognised by the 21 countries bordering the Mediterranean as a marine protected area.

© DR
© Journal de Monaco, 20 juin 1975

The existence of the RAMOGE environmental protection treaty, signed by the three countries in 1976, facilitated the creation of the Pelagos Sanctuary. The RAMOGE Agreement (which takes its name from the initial letters of Saint-Raphaël, Monaco and Genoa, the coastal cities marking the boundaries of the area covered) was initiated by Prince Rainier III.

The Monaco Prince had proposed creating a pilot area to combat marine pollution, coordinated by the three nations which border the zone.

Pelagos is intended to serve as a model. The sanctuary has made it possible to implement innovative action, such as the introduction of a Whale Watching certification and the “Large cetacean location reporting” (Repcet) anti-collision system. In this part of the Mediterranean, 16–20% of whales found dead were killed following a collision.

The Pelagos Agreement Permanent Secretariat has been headquartered in Monaco since 2017.

© F. Bassemayousse - WWF France
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Pelagos Sanctuary

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