Location and Values: The Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino is located along the western (Pacific) shores of the Baja California peninsula in north-western Mexico. It is a serial site, protecting two extensive shallow coastal lagoons (Laguna Ojo de Liebre and Laguna San Ignacio) that serve as the most important place in the world for the reproduction of the eastern population of the North Pacific Grey Whale. This species was brought to the brink of extinction by commercial whaling, and the protection of these lagoons has played a key role in its remarkable recent recovery. The whales undertake an 8,000 km annual migration between their overwintering grounds in these lagoons and their main feeding areas in the Bering Sea.
In addition to its importance for the grey whale, the sanctuary supports a complex mosaic of wetlands, marshes, mangroves, halophytes, dunes and desert habitats which serve as highly productive nurseries for a diverse fish fauna, and habitat for an extraordinary diversity and abundance of overwintering birds. The marine and coastal areas also support other key species, including bottlenose dolphins, blue whales, California sea lions, elephant seals, harbor seals and four species of marine turtle
Conservation Status and Prospects. According to IUCN’s Conservation Outlook Assessment (2017) the conservation status of the Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino is ‘good, with some concerns’. The IUCN report notes that biodiversity values are being well maintained, and threats that were previously impacting the site, including agricultural and livestock development, overfishing, illegal fishing and garbage disposal have been brought under control. However there is still concern about the possible future impacts of (1) depletion of freshwater aquifers, (2) climate change, (3) uncontrolled tourism development, (4) the accidental escape of brine into the lagoons from salt factories on the site margins, and (5) possible future exploration for oil, gas and other minerals, as well as geothermal resources.
UNEP-WCMC Site Description
IUCN Conservation Outlook
Official UNESCO Site Details