El Vizcaino Whale Sanctuary

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El Vizcaino Whale Sanctuary

Located in the central part of the Baja California peninsula, the sanctuary contains ecosystems of exceptional interest. The coastal lagoons of Ojo de Liebre and San Ignacio are important breeding and wintering sites for gray whales, harbor seals, California sea lions, northern elephant seals and blue whales. The lagoons are also home to four endangered species of sea turtles.

The description is available under CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0 license

El Vizcaino Whale Sanctuary

Located in the Baja California Peninsula portion, this site contains ecosystems of exceptional value. The coastal lagoons of Ojo de Liebre and San Ignacio are excellent breeding and wintering sites for the gray whale, sea calf, California sea lion, northern elephant seal and blue whale. The lagoons are also home to four endangered species of sea turtles.

The description is available under CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0 license

الحيتان ال فيسكايينو

ا الموقع الذي اجا كاليفورنيا ، بيئية استثنائية. البحبرات الشاطئية اوجو ليبري ان اغناسيو ل مواقع تكاثر الحيتان الرمادية ل البحار الفقمات الكاليفورنية الفقمات الشمالية الال الال الال الال الال ا البحيرات اع السلاحف البحرية المهددة بالانقراض.

source: UNESCO / ERI

The description is available under CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0 license

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source: UNESCO / ERI

The description is available under CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0 license

езерват китов Эль-Вискаино

езерват расположен в центральной части полуострова Калифорния и включает елый ряд примечаттальнды. Прибрежные of Охо-де-Льебре и Сан-Игнасио служат местами размножения и зимовки для серых китов, обыкновенных тюленей, калифорнийских морских львов, северных морских слонов и голубых китов. лагунах отмечены редставители четырех исчезающих идов морских черепах.

source: UNESCO / ERI

The description is available under CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0 license

Santuario de ballenas de El Vizcaíno

Located in the central part of the peninsula of Baja California, este sitio alberga ecosystems of exceptional valor. The lagunas costeras de Ojo de Liebre y San Ignacio are excellent for the reproduction and invernada of gray ballenas, becerros marinos, leones marinos californianos, elefantes marinos septentrionales and ballenas azules. Esas lagunas albergan también cuatro especies de tortugas marinas en peligro de extinción.

source: UNESCO / ERI

The description is available under CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0 license

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source: NFUAJ

Walvisreservaat van El Vizcaino

Het walvisreservaat van El Vizcaino ligt in het centrale deel van het schiereiland Baja California en bevat een aantal bijzonder interessante ecosystemen. De kustlagunes van Ojo de Liebre en San Ignacio zijn belangrijke reproductie- en overwinteringsgebieden voor de grijze walvis, de zeehond, de Californische zeeleeuw, de noordelijke zeeolifant en de blauwe vinvis. De lagoons vormen ook de thuishaven van vier soorten bedreigde zeeschildpadden. Het gebied wordt al vele eeuwen bewond. Said blijkt onder andere uit een aantal prehistorische vindplaatsen, rotstekeningen, muurschilderingen en oude ruïnes. Samen vormen ze het bewijs van vroege kolonisatie vanuit Europa.

Source: unesco.nl

Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

The El Vizcaino Whale Sanctuary is a serial property on the Pacific coast of the central part of the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico. It includes two coastal lagoons, Laguna Ojo de Liebre and Laguna San Ignacio, and their surroundings, a complex mosaic of wetlands, marshes, halophytes, dunes and desert habitats, as well as mangroves in transition areas. The total extent of the two components of the property is 370,950 hectares, embedded in the much larger El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve, the largest protected area in Mexico, itself contiguous with another large conservation area in the North. The lagoons are recognized as the world’s most important breeding ground for the once endangered eastern subpopulation of the North Pacific Gray Whale. The protection of these winter breeding grounds was essential in the remarkable recovery of this species after its virtual extinction following commercial whaling, including in these same lagoons. Most of the subpopulation migrates between lagoons and summer feeding grounds in the Chukchi, Beaufort and Northwestern Bering Seas.

The lagoons are home to many other marine mammals, such as the bottlenose dolphin, California sea lion, and harbor seal. Four species of sea turtles live in the shallow waters which also provide important habitat and nursery for large numbers of fish, crustaceans and other life forms. Countless species of nesting and migrating birds, including for example a large population of resident ospreys and more than half of the wintering population of Mexican Brent Geese depend on lagoons and adjacent habitats. This exceptional sanctuary preserves both marine and terrestrial ecosystems and their delicate interface. The surrounding desert, biogeographically part of the Sonoran Desert, has a very diverse flora and fauna.

Despite the protection status, the property is sensitive to the potential impacts of economic activities taking place in the immediate vicinity of the lagoons, in particular benthic and pelagic fishing, large-scale salt mining and tourism.

Criterion (x): The El Vizcaino Whale Sanctuary contains the most important breeding grounds of the eastern subpopulation of the North Pacific Gray Whale. Its protection is closely linked to saving the species from extinction and recovery from near collapse due to excessive commercial whaling. Many environmental factors, such as depth, temperature, nutrients and salinity, coincide in the lagoons of Ojo de Liebre and San Ignacio to make them ideal mating, breeding and calving grounds. The lagoons also provide valuable habitat for many other marine mammals, such as bottlenose dolphins, California sea lions, and harbor seals. Four species of sea turtles have been recorded in the lagoons and adjacent coasts, the most important being the green turtle and the loggerhead turtle. The shallow and well protected lagoons with their mangrove stands are also very productive nurseries for a diverse fish fauna and are home to a rich invertebrate fauna, as well as an impressive natural and seascape. The surrounding wetlands attract an extraordinary diversity and abundance of resident and migratory bird species with several hundred thousand wintering birds. The driest land areas belong to the Sonoran Desert, well known for its remarkably diverse flora and fauna and a high degree of endemism.

Integrity

The boundaries of the property cover the entirety of the coastal lagoons of Ojo de Liebre and San Ignacio. Thus, they encompass a major area of ​​sensitive gray whale habitat, a key conservation value of the property. The property is part of the El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve, Mexico’s largest protected area, and is also part of an even larger contiguous conservation complex. The vast terrestrial protected areas serve as a terrestrial buffer for the lagoons, including with regard to the maintenance of sea-land interactions. The biosphere reserve comprising and surrounding the property also includes a five kilometer marine strip of the coast as a buffer zone, also serving de facto as a marine buffer zone for the property.

It is important to note that the breeding population of Gray Whales, an extraordinary conservation feature of global importance, spends only a relatively small part of its life cycle within the property. In this sense, the property is a revealing example of the advantages and disadvantages of in situ conservation. The future of the eastern subpopulation of the North Pacific Gray Whale will undoubtedly depend on both the successful conservation of the property and broader international efforts beyond specific sites.

Human impacts are relatively limited. At the same time, it is remarkable that even in a remote desert, human activities are putting increasing pressure on the natural environment. While whaling has come to a complete stop at the property, current grounds for concern include, but are not limited to, overfishing, extensive production of salt by evaporation and uncontrolled tourism development.

Protection and management requirements

The first applicable conservation effort is the Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds and Game Birds, a bilateral agreement between Mexico and the United States of America ratified in 1937. Another framework is Mexico’s accession to the International Whaling Commission in 1949, which has protected Gray Whales from commercial whaling since its inception. More recent federal legislation on threatened and endangered native species lists the gray whale as “under special protection.”

A 1971 federal decree established a marine refuge area for whales in Laguna Ojo de Liebre, followed by another decree a year later establishing several refuges around the lagoons. Another decree established a cetacean refuge at Laguna San Ignacio in 1979. In 1988, the federal government declared El Vizcaino a biosphere reserve, encompassing current property. El Vizcaino was internationally recognized under the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Program in 1993.

Laguna Ojo de Liebre is located next to the port town of Guerrero Negro, a whale watching center but also the site of industrial-scale salt extraction. Ships transport the salt out of the lagoon to a deep water dock offshore. This maritime traffic, as well as other maritime traffics along the coast and the growing number of tourist boats, entail risks of disturbance, contamination or even collision with marine mammals. Unlike Laguna San Ignacio, exploration and mining is not explicitly prohibited at Ojo de Liebre, posing a potential risk of future salt extraction at the expense of critical habitat for the Gray Whale.

Overfishing and illegal fishing occur in and around the two lagoons and are also of wider concern along the Pacific coast. Besides the complex impacts on marine ecosystems in lagoons, gray whales, other marine mammals and sea turtles can be fatally affected by entanglement in fishing gear. Tourism and related coastal development have a number of undesirable impacts when not managed properly, for example inadequate waste management but also direct disruption through irresponsible and excessive whale watching. There’s also the uncontrolled off-road driving and poaching in the surrounding desert. The impressive natural and seascape requires careful planning and management to maintain the integrity of this property.

The challenges are documented in sophisticated management programs. El Vizcaino Whale Sanctuary has the potential to serve as an example of integrated natural resource management. Beyond conserving an exceptional place, there is room for the sustainable use of natural salt, the harvesting of marine resources and whale watching. This, however, requires a permanent balance of interests, including those of the local communities whose livelihoods depend on the natural resources protected in this property. It also requires qualified and motivated staff, adequate financial resources and the full support of local communities for conservation and management activities.

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