National legal framework

of cetaceans protection

All species of marine mammals found in waters under French jurisdiction are protected.

The first existing national regulation for the benefit of marine mammals dates back to 1970 (decree of October 20, 1970) and prohibits the capture and destruction of dolphins. The decree of July 27, 1995 establishes the list of marine mammals protected on the national territory. These two orders were repealed on July 1, 2011 and replaced by a ministerial order (amended in September 2020).

This decree confirms the prohibition of the destruction, mutilation and capture of cetacean and sirenian species on the national territory, and in marine waters under sovereignty and jurisdiction, at all times, and specifies the conditions of approach.

  • It prohibits intentional disturbance, including approaching animals closer than a distance of 100 meters in marine protected areas, and pursuing or harassing animals in their natural environment (Article 2-I).
  • It also protects habitats by prohibiting the destruction, alteration or degradation of breeding and resting grounds of the animals (Article 2-II).
  • Finally, the possession, transport, naturalisation, peddling, sale, offering for sale or purchase, and commercial or non-commercial use of marine mammal specimens taken from the natural environment are prohibited.

Find out about the 1 July 2011 Decree (in French).


Banner photo credit: Souffleurs d'écume