Saving Gray Whales and Responsible Whale Watching in Baja California

Photo by Eddie Kisfaludy

Photo by Eddie Kisfaludy

Gray whales have arrived in Baja California! Every winter these marine mammals visit the lagoons of Ojo de Liebre, San Ignacio and Bahía Magdalena to reproduce and give birth. Over the past 15 years, WILDCOAST has worked diligently to conserve gray whale habitat, train local whale watching guides in proper management techniques, and even help boat operators obtain less polluting outboard engines for their skiffs.

During their stay in the lagoons of the Baja California peninsula, whales are visited by thousands of tourists each year that want to get a glimpse of this majestic leviathans up close. Unfortunately, sometimes the desire to get close to whales, can sometimes stress the animals.

Therefore, in response to the growth of whale watching in Baja and in an effort to reduce impacts to these marine mammals, the Mexican government stablished strong whale watching guidelines (NOM- 131-SEMARNAT-2010). These guidelines are not only to regulate sightings, but to also promote the conservation of whale species, including the gray whale.

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Mexico Safeguards Vast Stretches of Coast, Deep Ocean

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Image by Octavio Aburto

CANCUN, Mexico, December 5, 2016 (ENS) – Much of Mexico’s Caribbean coast, Baja coast and deep ocean are to become protected areas, President Enrique Peña Nieto announced Monday at the opening of the 13th Conference of the Parties (COP 13) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity being held in Cancun this week and next.

The President signed a decree creating three new marine biosphere reserves, on the occasion of hosting COP13. Ministers and delegates from over 190 countries are attending the conference.

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Mexican President Peña Nieto Establishes New 2.7 Million-Acre Baja Pacific Islands Reserve

Coronado Islands, offshore of the US-MEXICO border, Pacific Ocean, Baja California, Mexico

Coronado Islands, offshore of the US-MEXICO border, Pacific Ocean, Baja California, Mexico. Photo by Ralph Lee Hopkins

Ensenada, Mexico. December 5, 2016. The President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, today established the 2.7 million acre Islands of the Pacific Biosphere Reserve just offshore of the Pacific Coast of the Baja California Peninsula. This new federal reserve includes 21 islands that are often referred to as the “Galapagos of Mexico” and protects the marine areas around the islands that are habitat for marine mammals, seabirds, and commercially valuable species of fish and shellfish.

“The Islands of the Pacific Biosphere Reserve, that includes the Coronado and Todos Santos Islands off of Tijuana and Ensenada and just south of San Diego, provide habitat for a variety of species that do not exist in any other part of the world,” said Dr. Serge Dedina, Executive Director of WILDCOAST. “In total, this new reserve is home to 50 percent more endemic species of vertebrates and plants per unit of surface area than the Galápagos Islands.”

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Mining for Blue Carbon in the Mangroves of Baja’s Magdalena Bay

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Last week, a WILDCOAST team traveled to Puerto San Carlos in the community of Magdalena Bay. After three hours on the road surrounded by nothing other than cardon cacti, we arrived at our destination.  As you enter Puerto San Carlos, you are welcomed by a sea of mangroves that surround the community, and you are instantly wowed.

Magdalena Bay is the largest wetland in Baja California and provides habitat for some of most pristine and biologically important mangroves in the world. Research has shown that coastal desert mangroves store up to five times more carbon than tropical mangroves. 

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Don Diego Mining Project REJECTED!

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VICTORY! The Don Diego underwater mine project proposed for seabed near Magdalena Bay and San Juanico was rejected this morning by Mexico’s Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT). The project, which intended to dredge 224,866 acres of sea bed for 50 years off of Baja California Sur’s Pacific Coastline, was denied due to the negative impact it would have on marine wildlife including endangered loggerhead sea turtles and gray whales.

The project was heavily criticized by fishermen, NGOs, and even state and local agencies due to its environmental impacts and the irreversible damage it would have on some of the most productive fisheries in Mexico .

We would like to thank SEMARNAT for a very public process and for making the right decision to protect Mexico’s coastal resources!

Photo by Claudio Contreras/WILDCOAST

Announcing the Winner of our #MangleESVida Campaign Contest

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In 2015, WILDCOAST in association with Music For Relief, launched the #mangleESvida campaign which aims to promote the important environmental benefits that mangroves provide. It was through this campaign that William Moisés Figueroa Álvarez won an autographed guitar signed by the rock band Linkin Park, who donated the guitar for our campaign.

William worked as a technician at a sea turtle camp in Morro Ayuta, located in the Oaxacan coast. He supported various conservation activities that include  monitoring and surveillance during sea turtle nesting season. As part of the #mangleESvida campaing, WILDCOAST was raffling off the signed guitar with a simple donation to the campaign.

“I never imagined all the good luck that the sea turtles have brought me” William said with a smile on his face as he walks along the beach with his new guitar.

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Gray Whales Arrive in Baja’s Magdalena Bay

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The gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) is one species of whales that was hunted mercilessly during the IX and early XX centuries and was taken to the verge of extinction. After many years and numerous conservation efforts the global  population of gray whales has recovered and there are now between 18,000 and 24,000 of these gentle giants.

Gray whales make one of the longest migrations of any mammal. They travel between 15,000 and 20,000 miles every year from their feeding grounds in the Arctic to and from the warm waters off the west coast of the Baja California Peninsula. At the end of the fall, gray whales begin their journey south where they will spend winter and the beginning of spring to give birth and reproduce in three coastal lagoons in Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Scammon’s lagoon, San Ignacio Lagoon and Magdalena Bay offer shelter to pregnant whales, newborn cubs and adults during winter months.  These sites have been and still are essential for the recovery and survival of the species.

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2013 YEAR IN REVIEW

As the year comes to an end, WILDCOAST is proud to announce our accomplishments from 2013. We couldn’t have done it without those who support us in our conservation endeavors. Take a moment to look over our accomplishments from 2013, and please continue to support our work through 2014 by donating today: https://app.etapestry.com/hosted/WildCoast/OnlineDonation.html

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