The waters that are today included in the Sanctuary for Marine Mammals have been renown for being the home to cetaceans since ancient Roman times. It’s no coincidence that the city known as Portofino used to be called Portus Delphini; cold-water currents that are rich in krill, plankton and small crustaceans run through the area and supply nutrients to large marine mammals. About twenty species have been counted. Some of the most frequently spotted are stenellas (Stenella coeruleoalba), bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), grampus (Grampus griseus), long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas), goose-beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris), sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) and common fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus). In these waters you can also find Giant Devil Rays (Mobula mobular) manta rays and elephant sharks (Cethorinus maximus), along with loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta).

Marine Protected Area

Created with an international protocol in 1999 that was ratified in 2001, this border-spanning reserve covers 87.500 sq. km. between France, Monaco and Italy, with the island of Corsica at its centre. The four corners of the area are Giens, France; Punta Falcone in Sardinia; Capo Ferro in north-eastern Sardinia and the Fosso Chiarone estuary between Tuscany and Lazio in Italy. Italian waters included in Santuario lies in the Provinces of Genoa, Imperia, La Spezia, Savona, Olbia, Sassari, Livorno, Lucca and Pisa. The Santuario has been designated a SPAMI (Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance.) at the United Nation’s Barcelona Convention.

Useful Contacts

Comitato di pilotaggio presso il Ministero dell’Ambiente
e della Tutela del Territorio e del Mare.
Direzione Generale per la Protezione della Natura
via C. Colombo, 44 – 00147 Roma
tel. 06/572201
Accobams –

By Boat

Navigating between Liguria and Corsica frequently offers the chance to spot whales and there are organised whale watching tours all along the Ligurian coast. If you’re leaving from Genoa you can first visit the Acquario there. If you happen to spot a whale it’s a good idea to notify the closest Capitaneria di Porto to report its whereabouts. The vast area it covers makes this an atypical reserve compared to the other Italian reserves and for the time being the Italians have not ratified any particular rules to protect the area except prohibiting motor boat racing within its confines. Within the perimeter of this reserve you may not create a disturbance on purpose and all of the countries involved have agreed to begin to follow rules that will prohibit the use of drift nets or other fishing methods that can lead to the accidental capture of cetaceans.


Rules and Regulations

In case of spotting a whale or other cetacean the following code of conduct should be used so as to not bother the marine mammals:

– do not get closer than 50m to the animals;

– do not go faster than 5 knots;

– do not stop your vessel in the middle of a pod of cetaceans because it could separate individuals or a group of individuals from the rest of the pod.

– do not feed the animals or throw anything into the water;

– do not go towards the animals head on;

– do not suddenly change the speed or direction you are navigating in.