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Pelagos Sanctuary

Description: 

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, which live in it. What makes the Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals unique is the fact that it is a site 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. The entire Sanctuary can be broadly considered to be a biogeographically distinct sub-section of the Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) that is the Mediterranean. This sub-section is marked by greater productivity caused by a variety of mechanisms of fertilization enhancing the level of primary production: coastal waters, the delayed effect of winter mixing, the frontal area, upwelling phenomena and complex structures that combine divergent and convergent features.

Problem, challenge or context: 

A rough estimate lists more than 8,500 macroscopic animal species representing between 4 % and 18 % of global marine species, a remarkable biodiversity, particularly with regard to the number of predators at the top of the food chain such as marine mammals, since Mediterranean represents only 0.82 % of the area and 0.32 % of the volume of the world's oceans. However, the biodiversity within this sub-section of the Marine Ecosystem of Great Dimension Mediterranean undergoes the combined pressure of natural environmental fluctuations and human impacts. The aim of the Pelagos Sanctuary is "to ensure a favorable conservation status for marine mammals by protecting them and their habitats from the direct and indirect negative impacts of human activities" (art. 4 of the Agreement). To this end, the signatory countries committed to identifying the threats posed to cetacean populations by these activities and taking appropriate measures to regulate them. This section sets out the activities that can have negative impacts on the marine mammals in the Sanctuary.

Specific elements of components: 

The schema below is an attempt to comprehensively summarize the different human activities as well as the consequences that these can cause to marine mammal populations. In addition, the same location is subject to increased pressure that is associated with a range of human activities and creates serious problems for any populations of marine mammals that are present. Among other factors, these effects are the result of certain fishing techniques, pollution, urbanization, collisions with boats and whale-watching activities. Natural disturbances (climate variation, disease outbreaks etc.) also play a role alongside such human disturbances. The process of creating the Sanctuary was developed in Italy by non-governmental organizations and completed internationally when the countries involved became aware that marine mammals could be protected only through the integrated management of the Sanctuary. As the Sanctuary project grew into fruition, a number of research centers, universities, non-governmental organizations, groups and marine professionals took part in national and international meetings alongside public sector involvement. Brought together by their research and work on population monitoring as well as their respective countries and media initiatives, they sought to make the process of creating the Sanctuary more straightforward for decision-makers. The story of the Sanctuary is one of continued collaboration among the different individuals and groups that enabled it to come into being.

The action taken: 

The action taken:
Created in order to protect marine mammals from all sources of disturbance caused by human activity, the Sanctuary is thus intended to enable socio-economic development while providing the habitats in the area and species living there with the protection they need. What makes the Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals unique is the fact that it is a site 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. The entire Sanctuary can be broadly considered to be a biogeographically distinct sub-section of the Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) that is the Mediterranean.

Key lessons learned: 

To make this lengthy document easier to read, a special task force, made up one representative from each party, prepared a working summary (FR, IT) that lists all the management measures proposed in the plan.

Impacts and outcomes: 

The management plan was developed in several stages


  • a detailed summary was drawn up and adopted by the contracting parties (February 2003);
  • a specialist, Dr Virginie Tilot, was appointed to draw up the management plan, and a long-running survey of the people and groups that form the Sanctuary’s socio-economic element was conducted;
  • a special task force, made up of three or four representatives from each party, was created to monitor and provide support to Dr Tilot in her work throughout the survey and drafting phase;
  • draft submitted in December 2003;
  • plan finalized in the spring of 2004;
  • plan adopted at the Second Meeting of the Contracting Parties of the Agreement in Elba on September 15, 2004.
  • In its adoption and implementation of the management plan, the Pelagos Sanctuary thus developed a new approach, one based on frequent and effective international cooperation, with the lasting aim of enabling marine mammals to live alongside humans in an environment that is favorable to them.
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