How to conduct a research project in the Agoa Sanctuary

Improving knowledge about marine mammals is one of the top priorities of the Agoa Sanctuary. Since these species already face several threats in the French West Indies, research efforts must be managed in order to reduce disturbance for the animals. 

Marine mammals are protected at national level on French territory. Within the Agoa Sanctuary, specific regulation was put in place to reinforce this protection. As such, several procedures need to be followed in order to collect data on marine mammals in compliance with the existing legislation

Important : Please note that all the following procedures must be carried out in French. 

1. Marine Scientific Research authorization (RSM in French)

A Marine Scientific Research authorization delivered by the DDGAEM (the prefect of Martinique) is needed for any marine research project in the French West Indies. This RSM authorization must be obtained whatever the research subject, including for studies not related to marine mammals.

Please find below the required information to apply for a RSM authorization: 

  • Identity of the applicant
  • Nature and objectives of the research project 
  • Methods and means to be used. Should be specified: name, tonnage, type and category of vessels, as well as description of facilities and scientific equipment to be used to carry out this research project. 
  • Precise areas where the project will be carried out, with geographic coordinates in WGS 84 degrees, decimal minutes. 
  • Estimated duration of research operations, as well as expected dates of first arrival and last departure of the research vessels, or following the case, dates of installation and removal of research equipment. 

This RSM authorization request must be submitted to the Action de l'État en Mer 6 weeks prior to the campaign

Please note that from 1st September 2024, the RSM authorization request must be submitted to : 

Special case

1) You need a RSM for research overlapping the EEZ and the territorial sea

These requests should be submitted to the Action de l'État en Mer.

2) The RSM request comes from a foreign state, an international organization or a physical or moral person of foreign identity

The request must be submitted through diplomatic circuits. The request must be made through the State of nationality, the flag State of the chartered vessel or by the State where the vessel was registered in. In this case, all requests must be submitted 6 months before the start of the campaign

2. Declaration of Nautical Event (DMN in French)

By Prefectoral Order No. R-02-2017-03-15-003 of 15 March 2017, approaching marine mammals less than 300m away is strictly forbidden in the Agoa Sanctuary. This interdiction applies on water, underwater and in the air. This distance being restrictive for most marine mammal research project, researchers needing to approach up to 100 meters of the animals must submit a Declaration of Nautical Event to the Direction de la Mer.

The Declaration of Nautical Event application form is available on the Martinique Direction de la mer website or the Guadeloupe Prefecture website.

The request must be made to the relevant maritime authority no less than 2 months before the campaign start


3. Derogations from protected species obligations (DEP in French)

Last but not least, if the project requires to approach marine mammals within 100 meters in the Agoa Sanctuary, it is mandatory to request a derogation from protected species obligations. 

Derogations from protected species obligations are issued by the DEAL in Martinique and Guadeloupe, including Saint-Martin. In Saint-Barthélemy, derogations may be issued by the Director of the Agence Territoriale de l'Environnement or by the President of the territorial council of the Collectivité of Saint-Barthélemy. 

This procedure is quite long and requires an application assessment by the Conseil National de la Protection de la Nature. There is a statutory deadline of 4 months for any DEP request, but it is advised to get in touch with the DEAL at least 6 months before the start of the research project.

For further information, visit the dedicated pages of the Martinique DEAL website (Martinique DEP application) and the Guadeloupe DEAL website (Guadeloupe DEP application). You will find a DEP request form dedicated to marine mammals as well as a note about the associated stakes.

Special case: tagging and biopsy sampling

These research methods are deemed invasive as they are considered the most intrusive for animals.

 In the absence of an official international definition, the Scientific Council of the Agoa Sanctuary has agreed on the following definition:

“An invasive method is any research technique requiring:

- the slightest physical contact with the targeted living animal, regardless of the material coming into contact with the individual 

- a stimulus directed at the targeted animals that could have an impact on their behavior, health or well-being

Given their intrusive nature, these methods are subject to particular scrutiny when processing applications. 

Baleine observée lors de la mission Megara

La mission Megara 2019 est une mission de déploiement de balises sur des baleines à bosse dans les Iles du Nord.

Jeffrey Bernus / Office français de la biodiversité

La mission Megara 2019 est une mission de déploiement de balises sur des baleines à bosse dans les Iles du Nord.

Jeffrey Bernus / Office français de la biodiversité

Please note that the Agoa Sanctuary is usually asked to provide an opinion by the departments in charge of these requests (Action de l'Etat en mer, Direction de la mer, DEAL). We encourage you to get in touch with the Sanctuary team before submitting your request in order to discuss your project at the planning stage, at