The Pelagos 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. The Pelagos Sanctuary includes the coastal waters and pelagic area* comprised between the headlands of the Giens peninsula (France) to the Fosso Chiarone in southern Tuscany (Italy). It extends across the waters of a number of islands, including Corsica and northern Sardinia as well as smaller islands such as the islands of Hyères, Liguria, the Tuscan Archipelago and the Strait of Bonifacio.
Eight species of marine mammal are found in the Pelagos Sanctuary on a relatively consistent basis: fin whales (" Balaenoptera physalus"), sperm whales (" Physeter macrocephalus2), Cuvier's beaked whales ("Ziphius cavirostris"), long-finned pilot whales ("Globicephala mela"), Risso's dolphins ("Grampus griseus"), Common bottlenose dolphins ("Tursiops truncatus"), common dolphins ("Delphinus delphi"), and stripe dolphins ("Stenella coeruleoalba").
*The Sanctuary is named for the Greek word πέλαγος (open sea). The pelagic zone includes water that is neither close to the bottom nor near the shore, forming what hydrobiologists call the "water column".
The Sanctuary originates in awareness raised in the 1980s by scientists, environmentalists, and elected officials about the dramatic increase of accidental captures of cetaceans in the Corso-Ligurian basin. The Pelagos project, aimed at establishing a biosphere reserve, was presented in 1991. The joint declaration establishing the Mediterranean Sanctuary for Marine Mammals (Corso-Liguro-Provençal Sanctuary) was signed in 1993 in Brussels by official representatives of the governments of France, Italy, and the Principality of Monaco. The Sanctuary was eventually established by the tripartite Agreement registered in 1999 in Monaco.
The Sanctuary was added in 2001 to the list of the Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance, which grants official recognition as a Marine Protected Area by the 21 countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The Tripartite Pelagos Agreement came into force on 21 February 2002, following ratification by the three parties. A common Management plan was adopted in September 2004. The Permanent Secretary of the Pelagos Agreement was established in 2006; it has been located in the Doge's Palace in Genoa since January 2008.
A Partnership Agreement with the municipalities bordering the Sanctuary was initiated in 2009. The aim was to strengthen the involvement of local authorities and regional stakeholders with the Pelagos approach. Out of the 241 concerned municipalities, 88 have already signed the Partnership Charter.