Competitions include offshore boat racing and jet-ski racing. These events bring a large concentration of boats in a small area.

Offshore races take place in the open sea, in speedboats that are able to reach speeds of 250 km/h. There are significant risks to marine mammals (noise, collision, pollution), especially in periods of reproduction, birth and feeding.

Clause 9 of the Pelagos Agreement states that ‘the Parties are united in seeking to regulate and, if necessary, ban high-speed vehicle competitions within the Sanctuary’. France, Italy and Monaco are working together on this matter, with a consensus emerging. These races are banned in the Italian territorial waters within the Sanctuary (Clause 5 of Law n°391 of 11th October 2001), while in the Principality of Monaco, any request to race is subject to prior authorization but prohibited in its waters, that are all part of the Sanctuary. In recent years, France has rejected a number of requests to host high-speed vehicle races.

The lack of knowledge on the direct and indirect threats posed by high-speed vehicles does not allow the definition of specific management measures. Further research is thus required.

As a means of limiting the risk of collisions, marine and noise pollution and stress, the precautionary principle should prevail as a matter of course. Furthermore, the safety of pilots must be ensured.

Jet skis routes are often non linear. Cetaceans nearby can be caught off guard by the speed of the boats and are sometimes unable to break free from the jet skis when they are ‘chased’ by them. In addition, the noise produced by jet skis seems to interfere with the sounds individuals use to communicate with one another as they use the same frequency. In Italy, jet skiing is never allowed more than 500 m from the coast and is supervised at all times.

In order to better regulate these competitive races, more information is needed on sensitive cetacean sites (feeding, breeding, nursing areas), seasonal changes and the behavior and distribution of populations.

The Pelagos Sanctuary is currently working on a decision-aiding grid to establish the supervision framework for the supervision of high-speed vehicle races.


Ship strikes, disturbance, oil pollution, noise, greenhouse gaz emission

The issue concerns both sailing boats and motorboats (sailboats, yachts etc.). They vary in size and speed, and cover different routes. Their traffic is more intense during the summer and they usually remain close to the coasts.

In the summer months, a large number of pleasure boats are concentrated in the Pelagos Sanctuary area, mainly along the coast. The boats can be classified by type (inflatable, semi-rigid and ‘open’ pleasure boats) and power source.

A recent study conducted in France, for example, counted some 39,000 pleasure boats in the vicinity of the Ile de Porquerolles during the 2007 summer season, with over 400 boats per afternoon at peak times. 


Disturbance, ship strikes, pollution (macro waste, hydrocarbons, black and grey waters), greenhouse gaz emission (motorboats).




The focus here is on boats used in freight and passenger transport (ferries, cargo ships, tankers, container ships, etc.), which are often over 100 meters long and travel at speeds of between 14 and over 40 knots. They travel a specific route, which often remains unchanged throughout the year, while the number of voyages can vary: this is particularly the case during the summer season with the transport of passengers between the islands of the Mediterranean (Corsica, Sardinia) and mainland Europe.

With annual marine traffic estimated at 220,000 merchant ships, commercial marine transport is especially intense in the western Mediterranean. The Pelagos Sanctuary and its boundaries are also impacted, as the area covers two of the Mediterranean Basin’s eight ‘marine traffic concentration zones’ (Genoa and Marseille) with at least eight passenger transport companies carrying out some thirty trips a day between the mainland, Corsica and Sardinia.  

Shipping routes used by commercial boats in the Mediterranean, 2001. Source: Di-Méglio and David (2006), based on data from SCOT (2004).

Map of the Pelagos Sanctuary and surrounding shipping lanes (source: International scientific workshop on spatial-temporal noise management, ACCOBAMS, October 2007).


In addition, while the Mediterranean makes up less than 1% of the total surface of the world’s oceans, it accounts for 28% of the world’s seaborne oil trade.

In the summer, the traffic between mainland Europe and Corsica is more intense, with between 700,000 and 900,000 people per year. The fact that hundreds of large cetaceans are concentrated in the area in the summer alongside this dense marine transport activity explains the increased risk of collisions. Marine traffic crossing the Pelagos area, especially for cargo transport (Motorways of the Sea) further emphasizes the need to develop measures to limit this risk of collisions.



Ship strikes, noise, perturbation, pollution (hydrocarbure), greenhouse gas emissions.

NB: Ballast waters, collected and discharged at sea, have occasionally been the source of biological and genetic pollution due to the translocation of some marine species, particularly species associated with marine mammals. It is believed that this practice has lead to the introduction in the Mediterranean of some 300 non-native species.