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.
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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
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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 : évaluation des Organisations consultatives