Located in the central part of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula, the Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino contains some exceptionally interesting ecosystems. The coastal lagoons are important reproduction and wintering sites for the gray whale, harbor seal, California sea lion, northern elephant seal and blue whale.
The UNESCO-designated Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino is a serial property on the Pacific Coast of the central part of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula and is embedded in the much larger El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, Mexico's largest protected area.
The Whale Sanctuary 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.
With a landmass of over 9,625 square miles (24,930 square km), the El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve is the largest wildlife refuge in Mexico and borders on the northern edge of the Valle de los Cirios Protected Area of Flora and Fauna.
The animals and plants of this territory have adapted themselves to the region’s extreme desert conditions with little rainfall, intense winds and an ecosystem which has produced thousands of endemic species of plants and animal life found nowhere else in the world.
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.
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.