The Italian Almanac

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mediterranean dolphins

Italian News - December 9

Italy is to host the headquarters of the Mediterranean's only marine mammal sanctuary, set up to protect and encourage the growth of dolphins, whales and other marine life. The decision came at the end of a two-day meeting between France, Italy and Monaco, discussing progress in "constructing" the sanctuary and possible future developments. The headquarters will be located in the Palazzo Ducale in the northwest port city of Genoa.

Delegates at the meeting also agreed that the post of the organization's executive secretary would go to France, while a representative from Monaco would head the technical and scientific committee. The sanctuary, the only one of its kind in the Mediterranean, stretches for over 10 square kilometres in international waters. Bordering the coasts of Provence, Montecarlo, Liguria, Corsica and Sardinia, its endpoints are Toulon in southern France, Capo Falcone in western Sardinia and Fosso Chiarore on the west coast of Italy.

The area has long had a natural cetaceous population far greater than that elsewhere in the Mediterranean, prompting Italy to formally propose the idea of a sanctuary in 1998. The plan, which designates the area off-limits to fishermen and requires shipping traffic to be kept to a bare minimum, won immediate support from Monaco. France was initially concerned about the ban on deep-sea fishing but eventually came round. The three states drew up an accord in 1999, which was ratified by Italy the same year. This was followed by approval of a management program last year.

The latest agreement means the sanctuary can now enter the first, fully operational phase. As well as fishing and shipping restrictions, the governments concerned are also seeking to monitor and limit pollution levels through a series of public and private initiatives. The Italian environment ministry has hailed the area as a paradise for marine mammals.