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The natural magic of the Cetacean Sanctuary

Look towards the sea whilst on the Aurelia and detect it, in the middle of the blue: the “spray” of a whale, which passes undisturbed in the stretch of coast between Imperia and Sanremo. Spells and emotions of the Cetacean Sanctuary, the marine area identified and geo-referenced from the early nineties to indicate the concrete presence of an area intensely frequented by several species of cetaceans, including rare animals.

The International Sanctuary of Cetaceans consists of an ideal triangle of sea that touches not only the Italian coast – between Liguria, Tuscany and northern Sardinia – but also those of neighbouring France and the Principality of Monaco, thus defining an area protected internationally. It is, as is confirmed by experts, the area most frequented by cetaceans in the Mediterranean with about 96 thousand square kilometres of sea surface. In this huge basin, western Liguria boasts an important record, that of the greatest number of sightings just off its coast. “It is not a coincidence – explains the biologist Barbara Nani – the reasons are primarily related to the food chain: in this area the natural cycles produce an increased availability of food for whales. The second reason instead is of an oceanographic nature and is linked to the seabed which, in the west, is the deepest in the whole Liguria, an aspect that allows tourists and scientists to go between 5 and 10 km out to sea and find themselves already in a very populated area, thus being able to effect a greater number of sightings. The living conditions for the cetaceans in the West, are in fact the best”.

The marine environment of the Sanctuary is characterized not only by rich waters, but by a variety of species that indicates a rich biodiversity: the data collected during the last years testifies to the presence of thousands of fin whales, which, with their 20 metres in length are the second largest animals of the sea, hundreds of thousands of striped dolphins, the most widespread species, and then again sperm whales, whose numbers are growing, and rarer species such as Risso’s dolphin, pilot whales, Cuvier’s beaked whales.

It is certain, however, that unusual incidents such as the spectacular leap of a whale not far away from the boat ensure true unpredictable emotions to be experienced, with full respect for the natural environment hosting them, in close contact with the sea.

[Alessandra Chiappori]

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