The Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaíno is a UNESCO site. Natural factors in this sanctuary make this site ideal for the reproduction of whales. This site contains the most important breeding grounds of the North Pacific Grey Whale.
It is estimated that nearly 50% of the world’s current gray whale population was born in the Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaíno.
Here lies the importance of this whale sanctuary for the whole world.
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What is the Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaíno?
The Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaíno is a site comprised of exceptional ecosystems. The Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It consists of two coastal lagoons, Laguna Ojo de Liebre and Laguna San Ignacio, and their surroundings. These two coastal lagoons are recognized as the world’s most important place for the reproduction of the once endangered Eastern subpopulation of the North Pacific Grey Whale.
The lagoons are also important reproduction and wintering sites for harbour seals, California sea lions, northern elephant-seals, and blue whales. There are also four species of the endangered marine turtle in the lagoons.
The lagoons’ complex surroundings include wetlands, marshes, halophytes, dunes, and desert habitats, as well as mangroves.
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The site consists of 370,950 hectares.
Where is the Whate Sanctuary of El Vizcaíno?
The sanctuary is located in the central part of the peninsula of Baja California in Mexico, on the Pacific Coast. It includes the Ojo de Liebre Lagoon, the San Ignacio Lagoon, and a part of the Sonoran Desert.
The boundaries of the site cover the coastal lagoons of Ojo de Liebre and San Ignacio. The property is embedded within the much larger El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, considered Mexico’s largest protected area.
Importance of the Whale Sancturary of El Vizcaíno
The Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaíno has the most important breeding grounds for the Eastern population of the North Pacific Grey Whale. The site is ideal are ideal for the mating, breeding, and calving of the whales, due to many factors, such as depth, temperature, nutrients, and salinity of the water of the lagoons.
In addition to being a sanctuary to grey whales, this sanctuary is also important for the reproduction of species such as:
- Elephant Seals
- California’s Sea Lions
- Sea turtles
- Blue Whales
Dolphins, turtles, fish, and migratory birds are among other species that live there, along with highly diverse fauna and flora of the desert.
The lagoons also provide habitat for marine mammals such as the Bottlenose Dolphin, the California Sea Lion and the Harbour Seal. Four species of marine turtles live in the shallow waters of the lagoons and adjacent coasts.
The lagoons are productive nurseries for numerous fish and crustaceans, and invertebrate fauna. The breeding, resident, and migratory bird species are numerous. In the winter, there are hundreds of thousands of wintering birds.
Protection of the Whale Sanctuary
The future of this species of grey whale population depends on the conservation of the Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaíno. Its protection is intricately connected to saving the whale species from extinction.
The site is embedded in Mexico’s largest protected area and part of a larger conservation complex, encompassing a major area of Grey Whale habitat.
The challenge for this sanctuary is to balance the interests of local communities with the conservation of the environment.
Conservation of the Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaíno
The breeding Grey Whale population is an extraordinary conservation feature of the Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaíno.
Mexico adheres to the International Whaling Commission, which protects Grey Whales from commercial whaling.
The Mexican government declared El Vizcaíno a biosphere reserve in 1988.
UNESCO recognized El Vizcaíno as an international site in 1993.
In Laguna San Ignacio, mining exploration and exploitation are prohibited.
However, mining exploration and exploitation are not explicitly prohibited in Ojo de Liebre.
There is overfishing and illegal fishing in and around both lagoons, with impacts on the marine ecosystems and marine animals.
Concerns include economic activities that take place in the vicinity of the lagoons; fisheries, vessel traffic, large-scale salt extraction with extensive evaporation, and increasing tourism.
Conservation requires sustainable use of natural salt, a balance of harvesting of marine resources, and support from communities in management activities.
The future of the Eastern subpopulation of the North Pacific Grey Whale will no doubt depend on both the successful conservation of this site and international efforts.
Note: If you visit the area as a tourist, remember to be respectful of nature and not to pollute.