Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino
Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino
Located in the central part of the peninsula of Baja California, the sanctuary contains some exceptionally interesting ecosystems. The coastal lagoons of Ojo de Liebre and San Ignacio are important reproduction and wintering sites for the grey whale, harbour seal, California sea lion, northern elephant-seal and blue whale. The lagoons are also home to four species of the endangered marine turtle.
Sanctuaire de baleines d'El Vizcaino
Situé dans la partie centrale de la péninsule de la Basse-Californie, ce site contient des écosystèmes de valeur exceptionnelle. Les lagunes côtières de Ojo de Liebre et San Ignacio constituent d'excellents sites de reproduction et d'hivernage pour la baleine grise, le veau marin, le lion de mer de Californie, l'éléphant de mer du Nord et la baleine bleue. Les lagunes abritent en outre quatre espèces de tortues marines menacées d'extinction.
معبد الحيتان في ال فيسكايينو
يتميّز هذا الموقع الذي يقع في وسط شبه جزيرة باجا كاليفورنيا، بأنظمة بيئية استثنائية. فالبحبرات الشاطئية في اوجو دي ليبري وسان اغناسيو تشكل مواقع تكاثر الحيتان الرمادية وعجول البحار والفقمات الكاليفورنية والفقمات بخرطوم الشمالية والحيتان الزرقاء، حيث تمضي فصل الشتاء. كما تتضمَّن هذه البحيرات أربعة أنواع من السلاحف البحرية المُهدَّدة بالانقراض.
Резерват китов Эль-Вискаино
Резерват расположен в центральной части полуострова Калифорния и включает целый ряд примечательных ландшафтов. Прибрежные лагуны 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. В лагунах отмечены представители четырех исчезающих видов морских черепах.
Santuario de ballenas de El Vizcaíno
Situado en la parte central de la península de Baja California, este sitio alberga ecosistemas de valor excepcional. Las lagunas costeras de Ojo de Liebre y San Ignacio son lugares excelentes para la reproducción e invernada de ballenas grises, becerros marinos, leones marinos californianos, elefantes marinos septentrionales y ballenas azules. Esas lagunas albergan también cuatro especies de tortugas marinas en peligro de extinción.
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 lagunes vormen ook de thuishaven van vier soorten bedreigde zeeschildpadden. Het gebied wordt al vele eeuwen bewoond. Dit blijkt onder andere uit een aantal prehistorische vindplaatsen, rotstekeningen, muurschilderingen en oude ruïnes. Samen vormen ze het bewijs van vroege kolonisatie vanuit Europa.
Outstanding Universal Value
The Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino is a serial property on the Pacific Coast of the central part of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula. It comprises 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 the transition areas. The total extent of the two components of the property is of 370,950 hectares, embedded in the much larger El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve, Mexico's largest protected area, which in turn is contiguous with another large conservation area to the North. The lagoons are recognized as the World's most important place for the reproduction of the once endangered Eastern subpopulation of the North Pacific Grey Whale. The protection of these winter breeding grounds has been paramount in the remarkable recovery of this species after near-extinction as a result of commercial whaling, including in these very lagoons. Most of the subpopulation migrates between the lagoons and the summer feeding grounds in the Chukchi, Beaufort and Northwestern Bering Seas.
The lagoons are home to numerous other marine mammals, such as Bottlenose Dolphin, California Sea Lion and Harbor Seal. Four marine turtle species occur in the shallow waters which are also an important habitat and nursery for a large number of fish, crustaceans, and others forms of life. Countless breeding and migratory bird species, including for example a major resident osprey population and more than half of Mexico´s wintering population of Brant Goose depend on the lagoons and adjacent habitats. This exceptional sanctuary conserves both marine and terrestrial ecosystems and their delicate interface. The surrounding desert, biogeographically part of the Sonoran Desert, boasts highly diverse flora and fauna.
Despite the protection status, the property is susceptible to the potential impacts of economic activities taking place in the immediate vicinity of the lagoons, in particular benthic and pelagic fisheries, large-scale salt extraction and tourism.
Criterion (x): The Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino contains the most important breeding grounds of the Eastern subpopulation of the North Pacific Grey Whale. Its protection is intricately linked with saving the species from extinction and recovery after near-collapse due to excessive commercial whaling. Many environmental factors, such as depth, temperature, nutrients, and salinity coincide in Ojo de Liebre and San Ignacio lagoons to make them ideal mating, breeding and calving grounds. The lagoons also provide valuable habitat for numerous other marine mammals, such as Bottlenose Dolphin, California Sea Lion and Harbor Seal. Four species of marine turtles have been recorded in the lagoons and adjacent coasts, the most important being the green and the loggerhead sea turtles. The shallow, well-protected lagoons with their mangrove stands are also highly productive nurseries for a diverse fish fauna and boast rich invertebrate fauna, and an impressive natural landscape and seascape. The surrounding wetlands attract an extraordinary diversity and abundance of resident and migratory bird species with several hundreds of thousands of wintering birds. The drier terrestrial areas belong to the Sonoran Desert, well-known for its remarkably diverse flora and fauna and a high degree of endemism.
The boundaries of the property cover the coastal lagoons of Ojo de Liebre and San Ignacio in their entirety. Thereby they encompass a major area of sensitive Grey Whale habitat, a key conservation value of the property. The property is embedded in El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve, Mexico's largest protected area and is also an integral part of an even larger contiguous conservation complex. The vast terrestrial protected areas serve as a terrestrial buffer for the lagoons, including as regards the maintenance of sea-land interactions. The biosphere reserve including, and surrounding, the property also comprises a marine strip of five kilometers from the coast as a buffer zone, also serving as a de facto marine buffer zone for the property.
It is important to note that the breeding Grey Whale population, an extraordinary conservation feature of global importance, only spends a relatively small part of its life cycle within the property. In this sense, the property is a telling example of both the benefits and the shortcomings of in-situ conservation. The future of the Eastern subpopulation of the North Pacific Grey Whale will no doubt 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 have been putting increasing pressure on the natural environment. While the whaling has come to a complete halt in the property, ongoing reasons for concern include but are not limited to excessive fisheries, extensive evaporation salt production and uncontrolled tourism development.
Requirements for Protection and Management
The first applicable conservation effort is the Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds and Game Mammals, a bilateral agreement between Mexico and the United States of America ratified in 1937. Another framework is Mexico's adherence to the International Whaling Commission in 1949, which has been protecting Grey Whales from commercial whaling since its establishment. More recent federal legislation on threatened and endangered native species lists the Grey Whale as "subject to special protection."
A Federal Decree in 1971 established a marine refuge zone for whales in Laguna Ojo de Liebre, followed by another decree one year later establishing several refuges around the lagoons. Yet another decree established a refuge for cetaceans in Laguna San Ignacio in 1979. In 1988, the federal government declared El Vizcaino a biosphere reserve, encompassing today's property. El Vizcaino was recognized internationally under the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme in 1993.
The Laguna Ojo de Liebre is located next to the port town of Guerrero Negro, a centre for whale-watching but also the site of industrial-scale salt extraction. Vessels transport the salt out of the lagoon to an offshore deep water dock. This vessel traffic, along with other vessel traffic along the coast and increasing numbers of tourist boats, entails risks of disturbance, contamination an even collision with marine mammals. Unlike in Laguna San Ignacio, mining exploration and exploitation are not explicitly prohibited in Ojo de Liebre, bearing a potential risk of future salt extraction at the expense of critical Grey Whale habitat.
Overfishing and illegal fishing occurs in and around both lagoons and is also a broader concern along the Pacific Coast. Besides complex impacts on the marine ecosystems in the lagoons, Grey Whales, other marine mammals and marine turtles can fatally suffer from entanglement in fishing gear. Tourism and related coastal development have a number of undesired impacts when not managed properly, for example inadequate waste management but also direct disturbance through irresponsible and excessive whale-watching. There is also uncontrolled off-road driving and poaching in the surrounding desert. The impressive natural landscape and seascape requires careful planning and management to maintain the integrity of this property.
The challenges are documented in sophisticated management programmes. The Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino has the potential to serve as an example of integrated management of natural resources. Beyond the conservation of an outstanding place there is room for sustainable use of natural salt, harvesting of marine resources and whale-watching. This, however, requires a permanent balancing of interests including those from local communities whose livelihoods depend on the natural resources protected in this property. It also requires skilled and motivated staff, adequate financial resources, and full support from local communities to conservation and management activities.
The Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino comprises two lagoons - Ojo de Liebre and San Ignacio - which lie in the central part of the Baja California peninsula, between the Gulf of California and the Pacific Ocean.
The lagoons are an exceptional reproduction and wintering site for gray whales as well as other mammals such as harbour seal, California sea lion, northern elephant seal and blue whale. Both lagoons are situated on the west side of the peninsula, Laguna Ojo de Liebre is connected to the Bahia Sebastian Vizcaino, and Laguna San Ignacio lies east of the town of Punta Abrejos, into which Rio San Ignacio flows.
Sedimentary rock forms the landscape in the north-west and the central zone of plains and the desert, Desierto de Vizcaino, with intrusions of riolithic lavas, andesites and piroclasts. Important fossil beds are found in the eastern zones. The eastern topography is dominated by the main mountain chain of Baja California, with heights ranging from 1,300 m to 1,996 m. A series of shallow, sandy bays, and saltwater inlets is found in both lagoons. The vegetation is representative of arid or hyperarid environments, a biogeographic subdivision of the Sonora desert vegetation community. There are 10 plant communities. Mangrove is typical of the lagoons, and dune communities, bushes and halophytic vegetation surround them.
In the coastal zone are found approximately 20 threatened animal species, including four species of marine turtle. The bay is frequented by gray whale, which breeds in both lagoons. The common seal is the other notable marine mammal. Bottlenose dolphin and California sea lion can also be found within Laguna San Ignacio. Three marine turtle species occur within the coastal area: green, hawksbill and olive ridley.
Notable endemic birds include peninsular yellowthroat and black-fronted hummingbird. The lagoons are important as a refuge for wintering wildfowl. Birds such as osprey and peregrine falcon also occur within the site.
The area has been occupied for many centuries. There are a number of prehistoric sites of importance on the peninsula, as well as petroglyphs, wall paintings and ancient ruined structures, together with evidence of the early colonization from Europe.
Approximately 38,000 people live within the buffer zone of the biosphere reserve, and are mainly concentrated in the towns of Guerro Negro, Santa Rosalia and San Ignacio and along the transpeninsula highway. Inhabitants are dependent on intensive agriculture, fishing, extensive livestock grazing, mining and tourism.Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
On 30 November 1988 the federal government declared El Vizcaino a national biosphere reserve under legal text. Under the 1932 convention between Mexico and the USA for the protection of migratory birds and game animals, the area benefitted from some protection. Since 1949 Mexico has adhered to the decrees of the International Commission for the Surveillance and Rational Protection of Cetaceans in relationship to this area. The presidential decree of 6 December 1971 established a marine refuge zone for whales in Laguna Ojo de Liebre. The text was modified in 1980 to include the lagoons of Manuela and Guerrero Negro. In 1972 another decree established a series of reserves and migratory bird refuges around Laguna de San Ignacio and Ojo de Liebre. In 1979 a new decree established a refuge zone for cetaceans in Laguna de San Ignacio (Prez-Gil, 1988). General legislation includes the Federal laws of Agrarian Reform concerning land ownership and land use, and the Forestry Law of 1960 concerning use of woodland and woodland products. The federal Hunting Law regulations took effect in 1988. Federal legislation also exists for the protection of the historic and archaeological monuments. Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1993.Source: Advisory Body Evaluation
- Training in marine spatial planning of World Heritage marine sites in Mexico Wednesday, October 12, 2011
- President of Mexico Announces Decision to Halt Saltworks Project at World Heritage Site, El Vizcaino Whale Sanctuary Tuesday, March 7, 2000
- The Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino in Mexico Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1993 Wednesday, December 8, 1999
- Second letter from the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee to the Environmental Groups concerning the Whale Sanctuary of El Viscaino (Mexico) Tuesday, May 25, 1999
- Letter from the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee Concerning the Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino (Mexico) Friday, December 4, 1998
- Mexico's World Heritage Sites Photographic Exhibition at UN Headquarters Feb 24, 2006-Feb 28, 2006