Le trafic maritime comprend tous les engins se déplaçant sur la surface de la mer. La majorité d'entre eux peut être classée en deux catégories en fonction de leur taille, activité et distance à la côte.

- D'une part, il s'agit des bateaux de transports de passagers ou de marchandises (ferry, cargo, tanker, porte-conteneurs,…), dont la taille dépasse souvent les 100 mètres, et qui naviguent entre 14 et plus de 40 nœuds. Ils suivent une route précise, parfois invariable tout au long de l'année, alors que le nombre de rotation peut varier : il augmente notablement durant les mois d'été pour les transports de passagers entre les îles de Méditerranée (Corse, Sardaigne) et le continent.

- D'autre part, il concerne les bateaux de plaisance à voile ou à moteur (voilier, yacht,…). Leur taille et leur vitesse sont variables, leur trajectoire est changeante. Leur présence en mer est plus forte durant l'été et ils restent essentiellement proches des côtes.

NB : le whale watching et les Courses sportives sont des cas particuliers du trafic maritime et font l'objet de rubriques à part.

Watching cetaceans in their natural environment is a tourist and/or pedagogical activity commonly known as ‘whale-watching’. Practiced in North America in the 1950s, it first appeared in the Mediterranean in the 1990s.

Over 10 million people around the world now go whale-watching every year, generating direct profits (increased sea excursions) and related profits (travel, accommodation, food, souvenirs) that reach a total of over a billion dollars every year, compared with 504 million dollars in 1994.

The Mediterranean has not escaped the trend, especially because of its relatively rich cetacean biodiversity (13 species make up the north-eastern Mediterranean population, 8 of which can easily be sighted). Whale watching in the French Mediterranean has sharply increased since the 1990s. In 2005, there were 23 whale watching tour operators, generating at least 1,730,000 euros of total tourist spend.

There are a number of positive aspects to whale watching. The activity contributes to the local economy (direct and indirect profit derived from the activity), is a pedagogical tool and helps to raise awareness on the marine environment; it furthers knowledge on cetaceans and helps to limit whale hunting in certain areas of the world, etc.

However, whale watching is not always conducted in a responsible manner and can then add to the existing threats of natural and human origin, increasing the vulnerability of cetacean populations by submitting them to further danger.

Unregulated whale watching can be a source of ecological disturbance, but when well managed, the activity becomes a very effective tool for encouraging conservation and raising environmental awareness, as well as contributing to the local economy.

Mindful of the issues surrounding whale watching and eager to regulate the activity and ensure its sustainable development, the scientists of the Pelagos Agreement and ACCOBAMS have been exploring this topic since 2002.

Click here to see the list of the whale watching operators engaged in the sustainable approach (French part).


Disturbance, noise, greenhouse gas emissions.

in situ, research, while necessary, can be a significant source of disturbance to marine mammals if carried out without the proper precautions.
Experts agree that some techniques are liable to disturb marine mammals, particularly marking and tracking, biopsy samples, capturing animals and experimenting with active acoustic techniques.
Other scientific techniques are much less harmful – this is the case with photo identification (if a minimum distance is observed).


Biopsy carried out by biologists. The skin sample will be analyzed for different studies such as genetic testing.






Monitoring of cetacean movements using an ARGOS transmitter (satellite-based system obtaining location information and other data) and GPS.

For the Sanctuary, these forms of research must be subject to specific general rules. Such rules will include, among others, the principle of declaration and prior authorization, a comprehensive code of conduct (behavior at sea, ready access to results, approval for the activity within the Sanctuary, fundraising) as well as the terms and conditions that apply to the granting of authorization and labels. In this regard, the Sanctuary area may benefit, if necessary, from more stringent measures than those specified under the ACCOBAMS Agreement. The Authorities that manage the Sanctuary could also support the decision made by the Contracting Parties should the dispensations set out in the ACCOBAMS Agreement be granted.

The recommendations relating to research are as follows:

  • all research projects in the Sanctuary must be accompanied by a declaration (in France and the Principality of Monaco) or a dispensation (Italy), 
  • the project leaders and researchers involved must apply a strict code of conduct and commit to minimizing the potential impact of interactions with cetaceans, 
  • researchers must agree to making their results known to a large scientific and technical audience via the appropriate means, to avoid redundancy of in-situ research and to enhance knowledge in the best possible manner.


Disturbance, harassment, stress.

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.

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.

The Sanctuary’s coastline is not immune to the current trend. The urbanization and industrialization of coastal areas are increasing and are not always managed through a responsible and sustainable approach. 

France’s two coastal departments (Var and Alpes-Maritimes), Corsica, the Principality of Monaco and the three Italian provinces (Liguria, Tuscany and Sassari in Sardinia) that border the Sanctuary are home to some eight million inhabitants. Obviously, this figure does not include summer visitors.
The French Riviera (Alpes-Maritimes and Monaco) and the one million people living there attracted over nine million tourists in 2002 (source: INSEE), for a total spend of over five billion euros. In Italy, around 10% of the country’s population live along the perimeter of the Sanctuary, i.e. 5.6 million people (source: ISTAT).
The Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, France’s most populated coastal region (according to INSEE estimates, there were 4.781.000 inhabitants in 2006), provides a good example of this ‘coastalization’ as its coastal area, which makes up 10% of the region, is home to 90% of the region’s permanent and seasonal inhabitants. Nor is Corsica able to escape the phenomenon of ‘coastalization’, although the island does have the distinction – a rare one in this part of the Mediterranean – of having sections of coast where there is little urbanization, with notable and sizeable areas that are entirely preserved.
Tourism, then, is a key economic activity in the Corso-Liguro-Provençal Basin, although it places significant pressure on natural resources.

In addition, the general migration of the population to the urban coastal area results in an increased need for water, energy, infrastructure and means of transport. Appropriate methods for processing waste and sewage generated by the coastal population and in catchment areas are sorely needed.
Marine mammal populations, associated species and their habitats now face a number of threats. For example, cetaceans are liable to be affected by pathogens found in sewage water, as well as by ingesting plastic bags thrown out to sea.

In addition to coastal construction work, other anthropic activities can have an effect on cetaceans: certain agricultural practices in coastal areas and catchment areas affect the marine environment and play a role in soil erosion, deforestation and freshwater pollution, which can be caused, in particular, by fertilizers, fungicides and pesticides. Changes to the hydrographic network within catchment areas as a result of the construction of dams, canals and reservoirs can also impact the quality and quantity of freshwater flowing into the Sanctuary area and can also be a source of land-based pollution.

Chemical, petrochemical and metallurgical industrial activity, as well as waste processing and solvent regeneration, the surface treatment of metals, the production of paper, paint, dyes and plastics, printing works and tanneries, oil and gas refineries, sand and gravel quarries, well drilling and desalinization and power plants use water from the Mediterranean or freshwater from the catchment areas in their production lines and waste disposal. There can be a direct impact on coastal areas in the form of sewage and air pollution as well as indirect effects from the urbanization and development occurring as a result of these facilities being nearby.


Pollution caused by pesticides (DDT etc.), heavy use of fertilizers (nitrates etc.), heavy metals (mercury etc), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), land-based pathogens, microplastics, macro-waste leading to physiological disorders and other health issues.