Documents and findings dating back centuries suggest that the abundance of marine mammals in the Mediterranean Sea is not a new phenomenon; Prince Albert I of Monaco (1885-1910) – known as the Prince of the Seas because of his great passion for ocean voyages and scientific research – reported to have seen more cetaceans from the window of his palace than from the ships he had been on.
As scientific research progressed and data were collected, the reasons for such richness in biological terms began to be uncovered and the importance of this area became quite clear.
The connection between the environment, primary production, and the presence of small and large marine creatures have been regularly studied to understand and preserve the ecosystems from urbanisation, fishing, shipping, recreational activities, etc.
The general ecological importance of the marine ecosystem in of this area has been confirmed in the 2010s by the UN Convention on Biodiversity, which identified two EBSAs (Ecologically or Biologically Important Marine Areas) fully overlapping the Pelagos Sanctuary: the North-western Mediterranean Pelagic Ecosystems and the North-western Mediterranean Benthic Ecosystems. More recently the IUCN identified two IMMAs (Important Marine Mammal Areas) in this region: the Western Ligurian Sea and Genoa Canyon IMMA (a key habitat for the Cuvier’s beaked whale) and the North West Mediterranean Sea, Slope and Canyon System IMMA (important habitat for fin and sperm whales and extending further beyond Pelagos).
The Sanctuary is one of the most productive pelagic environments in the Mediterranean Sea, but also one of those under the heaviest anthropic pressure.
In such a complex framework, the need for a structure capable of coordinating governance efforts, scientific research and outreach activities became clear.