The Pelagos Sanctuary

Sea & Land, The Sea

Many people still think that in order to see a whale you have to go to the middle of the Pacific, to Baja California or to South Africa; instead our Mediterranean is also home to a vast array of whales and dolphins. Just a few miles from our shores you can meet giant fin whales (the second largest species in the world after the ‘blue’ one, with 20-24 metres in length), sperm whales (the largest predators in the world) and six other species.

The Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals covers approximately 88,000 square km between Italy, southern France and Sardinia and covers both the inland maritime and territorial waters of France, Monaco and Italy, and the adjacent pelagic ones. A stretch of sea that hides a treasure of inestimable value, whose existence is still ignored by many.

The different species of cetaceans which are regularly sighted in the sanctuary, find the necessary conditions for the provision of food and for breeding in its waters and consist of the Balaenopteraphysalus fin whales, the sperm whales Physetermacrocephalus, the zifiiZiphiuscavirostris, Globicephalamelas pilot whales, Risso’s dolphins Grampusgriseus , Tursiopstruncatus bottlenose dolphins, striped dolphins Stenellacoeruleoalba and the rare common dolphins Delphinusdelphis. The striped dolphins are the most numerous, exceeding eighty thousand specimens, followed by the fin whales, of which more than four hundred can be counted in the summer.

This is a heritage which must be encountered in order to be appreciated and loved. The opportunities are many and range from half-day excursions aboard the whale watching fast boats, to weekends of sailing and whale watching, or you can join one of the Tethys Research Institute cruises while it conducts its research in the Sanctuary starting from Portosole, San Remo. Anyone, with no scientific background needed, can experience the thrill of close encounters with whales and dolphins, and assist marine biologists during data collection, thus greatly contributing to their protection.

[Sabina Airoldi]