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GRAY WHALES

Program Area

Laguna San Ignacio, in Baja California Sur and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the world’s last undeveloped California grey whale breeding ground, attracting hundreds of cetaceans every winter. The lagoon provides a number of important ecosystem services and essential habitat to endangered marine turtles, important fisheries and a number of migratory and resident bird species. The lagoon's expansive mangrove forests, among the worlds greatest carbon sequesters, are the northern most of their kind in the Eastern Pacific.

 

Over the years, there have been continuous pressures to convert the lagoon’s pristine shoreline into mega-industrial and tourism development ventures that would obliterate the important ecosystems and wildlife that the region supports. The world's largest salt extraction facility, cruise ship terminals, marina development and shorefront vacation homes are some of the proposals that have threatened the ecological integrity of the lagoon. Although these projects have been defeated, new development ventures are continuously emerging.

Conservation Strategies

Fortunately, WiLDCOAST and a number of other organizations have dedicated themselves to stop these developments threats from becoming a reality in the lagoon. WiLDCOAST has a long history conserving Laguna San Ignacio. Executive Director, Serge Dedina, uncovered ESSA’s plans for the lagoon's northern shore while living in the area for his Ph.D. work. Since then, Pronatura, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the International Community Foundation and WILDCOAST have join forces to protect the lagoon through a variety of conservation strategies.

 

Through conservation easement agreements with local landowners, direct purchases and collaboration with Mexico’s Commission for Protected Natural Areas (CONANP) to protect federal lands, the Federal Maritime Terrestrial Zone (ZOFEMAT) and the region’s mangroves, WiLDCOAST and partner organizations are protecting the unique and important ecosystems and habitats of Laguna San Ignacio. 

Impact

In 2008 WiLDCOAST established a conservation easement to protect 1,330 acres and one mile of critically threatened lagoon shoreline. Since then, WiLDCOAST and CONANP have protected 150 miles of ZOFEMAT (the first 20 meters of shoreline above the high tideline) around the lagoon through ZOFEMAT conservation concessions or acuerdos de destino.

 

In late 2010, CONANP announced the conservation of 299,108 acres of federal lands on the lagoon's northern shore. This area was held by ESSA'a mining concession. ESSA relinquished its concession and jurisdiction has been transfered to CONANP to carry out its conservation mission. WiLDCOAST provided logistical and technical support to CONANP to carry out required surveys and field work.

 

WiLDCOAST and its partners are continuing conservation initiatives for Laguna San Ignacio and are continuously exploring new opportunities to save this globally unique area.  

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Zachary Plopper
Conservation Director

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