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Sister Sanctuaries: Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Isole Egadi Marine Protected Area (Sicily, Italy)

egadi a bay in mbnms
A bay in the Eagdi Islands MPA China Cove at Point Lobos, in MBNMS

U.S. - Italian Marine Protected Area (MPA) Partnership is Formed
In May 2012, a delegation from Sicily, including the mayor of Favignana, came to Monterey to sign a Sister Sanctuary Agreement between Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) and the Isole Egadi Marine Protected Area. This is the fourth international sister sanctuary agreement within the National Marine Sanctuary System.

signing of agreement between MBNMS and Egadi Islands MPA
William Douros, ONMS West Coast Regional Director and Lucio Antinoro, Mayor of Favignana sign Agreement

The Agreement (1.5M PDF) establishes MBNMS and Isole Egadi MPA as "sister sanctuaries", which involves an ongoing relationship based on common goals, mutual interests and shared resource issues. Some of the activities described in the Agreement include developing cultural enrichment opportunities between Monterey Bay and Isole Egadi communities, which highlight the common lineage and linkages between the historic fishing families that lived in Marettimo, in the Egadi archipelago, and over the past 100 years that have emigrated to Monterey.

A short video of the agreement signing ceremony between MBNMS and Isole Egadi MPA as "sister sanctuaries"

In addition to the signing ceremony, the two sanctuaries held their first event together at the Museum of Monterey – "Cultural Connections between Sicily and Monterey." The program was open to the public and included presentations from Lucio Antinoro, the Mayor of Favignana, Paul Michel, Sanctuary Superintendent, and Karen Grimmer, Deputy Superintendent. There were showings of Italian film clips from Isole Egadi as well as panel discussions with Italian interpretation for the audience to enjoy Q&A. Following the panel discussions, the event offered a beautiful photo exhibit featuring Italian MPA and community photos, paired with a reception highlighting delicious Sicilian delicacies. Giovanna Febbraio with the Guidance Center Sicilian Emigrants for Egadi Island led the planning and co-hosted this informative and fun community event. California Marine Sanctuary Foundation sponsored the two day event. Additional sponsors and participants included Sicilan regional government delegates, members of the Guidance Center for Sicilian Emigrants (C.O.E.S.), local government reps, and MPA staff. For additional photos, please click here for Italian photos and here for MBNMS Facebook photos.

Favignana Governement logo Ministry of Guidance Center for Sicilian Emigrants (C.O.E.S.) logo local Sacilian Governement logo

Cultural Connections between Sicily and Monterey event at the Museum of Monterey Photo Exhibit on Isole Egadi MPA and Sicilian Heritage
"Cultural Connections between Sicily and Monterey" event at the Museum of Monterey Photo Exhibit on Isole Egadi MPA and Sicilian Heritage
Italian Delegation and MBNMS staff host the public events together at the Museum of Monterey
Italian Delegation and MBNMS staff host the public events together at the Museum of Monterey

Ecological and Historical Connections
The Egadi Islands and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary have much in common:

  • Both are unique and special marine protected areas that encompass great beauty, and a mild and warm climate
  • Isole Egadi represents the largest MPA in Europe and MBNMS the largest MPA in the continental US
  • They are both outstanding tourist destinations, as they offer diverse recreational opportunities
  • There is a rich fishing family connection between Monterey Bay and Sicily. From 1876 to 1915, 14 four million Italians emigrated to the U.S. for a better way of life. Marettimo has a remarkable lineage and linkage to Monterey. There are thousands of Monterey residents, mostly from fishing families, who were born on or whose matriarchs and patriarchs were born on the island of Marettimo. Today in Monterey there are about 1,400 Marettimari.

pic of coral in Isola Egadi MPAThe Egadi Islands MPA
The Marine Protected Area of the Egadi Islands, expanded to 53,992 hectares, is the largest marine reserve in Europe. Surrounding the islands of Favignana, Levanzo and Marettimo and the islets of Formica and Maraone, the MPA was established in 1991, and since 2001 is operated on behalf of the Ministry of the Environment by the City of Favignana. The variety of habitats and coastal areas of the seabed are represented by numerous coral reefs and submerged caves making Egadi an area of high biodiversity. Many species are also protected including the rare monk seal (Monachus monachus), the sea turtle (Caretta caretta), cetaceans (mainly bottlenose and spinner dolphins), and some sharks, including seabirds, an endangered species of extinction, the storm petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus). For more information on this unique MPA, please click here.

Visiting the Egadi Islands and Sicily

Visiting the Egadi Islands and Island of Sicily is a must! There is so much to see and do – it's a vacation paradise for all ages and interests. Some examples include:

Eco-Tourism: Pescaturismo is taking a charter fishing boat on the water to learn about the history of the area and catch fish, and then cook the fish for your meal.

History: on the water and on land tours will provide photo opportunities and background on the amazing history of this area.

Shopping and Dining: Sicily has one of the best varieties of seafood in the world, and boasts a large selection of shopping experiences.

Adventure: Diving, snorkeling, hiking and photography abound!

Ready to travel to the islands? Click here for more information

mano-del-morto nudibranco

Coming to Monterey?

There is rich set of events and historical places to visit and learn more about the marine life and the Italian connection to Monterey.

Santa Rosalia Festival: Festa Italia! This celebrated annual event has been happening for 80 plus years and always offers wonderful Italian food and drink and amazing entertainment.

Museum of Monterey: This museum hosts community events and offers talks, films and exhibits on fishing and fishing families. Click here for upcoming events in 2014.

Cannery Row: this historic waterfront district on Monterey Bay is filled with fishing history and stories of fishing families. It also boasts the best seafood restaurants, hotels, shopping, attractions, recreation and nightlife on the Central Coast.

Sanctuary Exploration Center: Located just steps away from the ocean and Santa Cruz Wharf, the center features state-of-the art exhibits and interactive displays highlighting the sanctuary and its incredible underwater environment. Visitors can explore the sanctuary's remarkable marine environment as well as their personal role in protecting one of our nation's underwater treasures.

Monterey Bay Aquarium: Prepare to be amazed at the wealth of marine life and activities you'll encounter with a visit to this premier US aquarium.

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary: There's so much to do when you visit this amazing place! Whether it's watching whales, paddling in the slough, reeling in salmon, exploring tide pools or diving among kelp forests, there is no more spectacular place to enjoy the ocean and outdoors.

Big Sur Coastline: an internationally recognized, rugged coastline that contains treasures at every turn.

Scuba Diving: The sanctuary lures divers from around the world who come here to experience the thrill of diving in towering kelp forests and rocky reefs teeming with life.

Wildlife Viewing: Often called the "Serengeti of the Sea," this is one of the best places in the world to see marine wildlife. You can see seals, sea lions, sea otters, whales, dolphins and seabirds any time of year!


map of mbnms map of Egadi MPA
Map of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
click here for a larger view
Map of the Islands of Marettimo, Levanzo and Favignana ,which form the Isole Egadi Marine Protected Area
click here for a larger view