Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino
Whale Sanctuary Of El Vizcaino
Natural Mexico Latin America And The Caribbean Basse Californie Sud, Municipality Of Mulege

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.