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February 24, 2011

The Whales are Back in Laguna San Ignacio…

And We Have Great News For Them: Forty-three Miles of Shoreline Surrounding Their Habitat Has Been Set Aside For Conservation!
View from the top of Laguna San Ignacio, Baja California Sur.

Conservation Achievement in Laguna San Ignacio 

Laguna San Ignacio, on the Baja California Peninsula’s Pacific coast is one of the world’s last undisturbed gray whale breeding grounds. Each year, hundreds of these intriguing cetaceans swim thousands of miles from the Arctic to mate, give birth and nurse their young in the placid waters of the pristine lagoon.

Therefore, we are very excited that after two years of intense field survey work, applications and administrative review, 43 miles of ZOFEMAT and 299,108 acres of federal lands in Laguna San Ignacio were recently transferred to CONANP for conservation.

“The recent successes in Laguna San Ignacio will likely usher in new support for public lands conservation in Mexico and accelerate the process for approvals in areas where work is underway, said Zach Plopper, Wildlands Program Manager.”

Applications for an additional 247 miles of ZOFEMAT in the lagoon are under review and are expected to be approved in the upcoming months.  Additional federal lands and ZOFEMAT work is being carried out in Laguna Ojo de Liebre, Laguna Manuela, the Valle de los Cirios, Bahia Magdalena, Cabo Pulmo and the islands of the Gulf of California.

“When we seriously consider what's pushing so much life on this planet toward extinction -- habitat destruction is an important cause.  There will be no more whales if we do not protect their breeding habitat”, said Serge Dedina, WiLDCOAST Executive Director. “It is crucial to fend off proposals to build industrial ports, salt making industries, and piers." 

WiLDCOAST and Mexico’s National Commission for Protected Natural Areas (CONANP) have been working together since 2008 to set aside sections of the federal maritime terrestrial zone, or ZOFEMAT, and federal lands for conservation in critically threatened areas of the Baja California Peninsula such as Laguna San Ignacio.

“The ZOFEMAT is the first 20 meters of shoreline throughout Mexico and federal lands are areas of unassigned land. Both are under the jurisdiction of the federal government.  Concessions to federal lands and the ZOFEMAT can be granted for development and mining activity even within protected areas. Fortunately, ZOFEMAT concessions can also be granted for conservation purposes”, explains Zach Plopper, WiLDCOAST Program Manager, about the technicalities of public land in Mexico. 

Although Laguna San Ignacio is located within the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve, Mexico’s highest status for protected areas, ZOFEMAT concessions around the lagoon can still be obtained. “Destructive and sometimes illegal development within the ZOFEMAT has occurred resulting in significant erosion and shoreline habitat loss. Concessions within protected areas can have tremendous impacts on wildlife and the ecological integrity of some of Mexico’s most significant biological hotspots,” says Plopper.

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