On November 25, 1999 approximately 100,000 km2 of water in the Ligurian Sea area was designated as a cetacean sanctuary. The was the result of an agreement between Monaco, France and Italy in which the signatories agreed 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"1.

The sanctuary was first proposed by the Tethys Research Institute, a NGO with offices in Milan and Venice. They launched the Pelagos Project in 1990-91 with the goal of creating a "Biosphere Reserve in the Corso-Ligurian Basin, which has the highest sighting frequency of cetaceans and possibly represents the richest area in the Mediterranean Sea"2. This led to a declaration by Monaco, France and Italy in 1993 in support of a sanctuary for the protection and conservation of sea mammals. This in turn led to the November 25, 1999 "Agreement relative to the creation of a mediterranean sanctuary for marine mammals" (see below) which formally established the sanctuary.

The signatories have specifically agreed to:

  • work with each other to ensure compliance with the terms of the agreement and promote sea mammal related research within the sanctuary
  • forbid the capture or killing of sea mammals within the sanctuary (except for certain emergency and approved research purposes)
  • regulate certain activities within the sanctuary, including whale watching and commercial fishing practices, which might indirectly impact sea mammals
The sanctuary is the water enclosed by:
  • a straight line between Point Escampobariou near Toulon, France and Cape Falcone on the northwest coast of Sardinia
  • the northern coast of Sardinia
  • a straight line between Cape Ferro on the northeast coast of Sardinia to Fosso Chiarone on the western coast of Italy
  • the combined coasts of Italy, Monaco and France from Fosso Ciarone up and around to Point Escampobariou
Roughly speaking, this is the entire Ligurian Sea plus the waters around the island of Corsica.

One of the challenges which the sanctuary will have to face over the long term, and which apparently was one of the reasons why the sanctuary took six years to establish after the 1993 joint declaration, is that the area encompassed by the sanctuary includes international waters. As a consequence, the signatories of the agreement establishing the sanctuary aren't able to force non-signatories to abide by the terms of the agreement. That said, the existence of the sanctuary does provide the basis for a certain amount of "moral persuasion" diplomacy. Sadly, "moral persuasion" diplomacy has been spectacularly unsuccessful when it comes to issues dealing with marine mammal related issues.

Name confusion

The agreement which set up the sanctuary doesn't actually name the sanctuary. This has (arguably) led to some confusion about the correct name of the sanctuary.

The Tethys Research Institute appears to be quite consistent about calling it the International Ligurian Sea Cetacean Sanctuary. Dropping the International tag, this is also the name that appears to be used by cetacean researchers around the world as a quick search for "Ligurian Sea Cetacean Sanctuary" on Google will reveal.

On the other hand, there's a web site on the 'net called International Mediterranean Sea Cetacean Sanctuary located at http://www.cetaceansanctuary.com/ which implies but never actually states that it is associated with the sanctuary. The site does promote the sanctuary but it seems to primarily promote it from the perspective of encouraging tourism. A Google search for "Mediterranean Sea Cetacean Sanctuary" leads to almost 200 hits although all but two of them are on the http://www.cetaceansanctuary.com/ site. One of the two is a false positive resulting from the words Mediterranean Sea at the end of a document's title being followed by cetacean sanctuary at the start of the document's subtitle. The other is a dead reference - the phrase "Mediterranean Sea Cetacean Sanctuary" appears on the page on 2003/04/28 in Google's cache but doesn't exist on the actual web page today.

In conclusion, I believe that the most appropriate name for the sanctuary is International Ligurian Sea Cetacean Sanctuary.

At the risk of being accused of creating a cut-and-paste writeup3, here's the full text of the agreement establishing the International Ligurian Sea Cetacean Sanctuary.

Agreement relative to the creation of a mediterranean sanctuary for marine mammals

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 or jurisdiction,
- 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, namely,
- the conventions on the conservation of migratory species of wild fauna and the relating convention on the conservation of European habitats and wildlife fauna,
- 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:

Article 1
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 ecosystem.
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 a migration route.
c) the term "taking" means the hunting, the capturing, the killing and the harassment of marine mammals including the attempt to conduct such activities.
Article 2
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 habitats.
2. The Parties will protect all species of marine mammals within the Sanctuary.
Article 3
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: 43º01'70'N, 06º05"90''E) to Cape Falcone, situated on the western coast of the island of Sardinia (40º58'00''N, 008º12'00''E),
- to the east, a line extending from Cape Ferro, situated on the north-eastern coast of Sardinia (41º09'18''N, 009º31'18''E) to Fosso Chiarone, situated on the western Italian coast (42º21'24''N, 011º31'00''E).
Article 4
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.
Article 5
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.
Article 6
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.
Article 7
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 Agreement,
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.
Article 8
In the sanctuary, Parties shall regulate the watching of marine mammals for touristic purposes.
Article 9
The Parties will exchange views with the aim of regulating and if appropriate, forbidding high-speed motorboat competitions within the Sanctuary.
Article 10
The Parties exchange their views in order to harmonise, as far as possible, the regulation measures pursuant to the previous articles.
Article 11
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 regulation measures.
Article 12
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.
Article 13
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.
Article 14
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.
Article 15
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.
Article 16
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.
Article 17
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 pertinent treaty.
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.
Article 18
The present Agreement is subject to ratification, acceptance or approval by the signatory parties.
Article 19
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.
Article 20
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.
Article 21
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 Parties.
2. Any 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.
Article 22
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.

Signed in 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.

1 direct quote from article 4 of the agreement which formed the International Ligurian Sea Cetacean Sanctuary.
2direct quote from the web page titled Cetacean Sanctuary on the Tethys Research Institute's web site (see references section below)
3I believe that including the text of the agreement in this w/u is legitimate as I don't think that international treaties are subject to copyright restrictions. I'll remove the text of the agreement if it becomes apparent that I'm mistaken. The English version of this agreement was provided by ICRAM (Istituo Centrale per la Ricerca scientifica e tecnologica Applicata al Mare). Their web site is located at http://www.icram.org/.


  • The web page titled Cetacean Sanctuary located at http://www.tethys.org/sanctuary.htm (last accessed 2003/04/27)
  • The web page titled Cetacean Sanctuary - Agreement located at http://www.tethys.org/sanctuary_text.htm (last accessed 2003/04/27)
  • The web page titled CNN - Whale sanctuary a step closer to existence - October 15, 1998 located at http://www.cnn.com/TECH/science/9810/15/whales.yoto/ (last accessed 2003/04/27)

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