Islas del Golfo de California (Mexico)
The Islas del Golfo de California, with over 240 islands, is located in northwestern Mexico between the rocky and arid peninsula of Baja California, the vast Sonoran Desert, and the abundant mangroves of Sinaloa. It is a part of the Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California World Heritage site.
Islas del Golfo de California
The Islas del Golfo de California, with its over 240 islands, is located in northwestern Mexico between the rocky and arid peninsula of Baja California, the vast Sonoran Desert and the abundant mangroves of Sinaloa.
A former Biosphere Reserve, withdrawn in 2022, Islas del Golfo de California is a part of the Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California World Heritage site.
Mexico withdrew the Islas del Golfo de California from the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve list in 2022. The main reason for the withdrawal was the illegal fishing of the vaquita, a critically endangered porpoise found only in the Gulf of California.
The vaquita is the world's smallest cetacean; only ten individuals are left in the wild. Illegal fishing with gillnets is the main threat to the vaquita, and Mexico has been unable to stop the practice.
The withdrawal of the Islas del Golfo de California from the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve list is a significant setback for the vaquita and the conservation of the Gulf of California.
The Gulf of California is a unique and vital ecosystem, and it is home to a wide variety of marine life, including the vaquita, the totoaba, and the Gulf of California porpoise. Unfortunately, the withdrawal of the Biosphere Reserve designation means that Mexico will no longer receive the support of UNESCO for conserving the Gulf of California.
The rich and well-preserved Archipelago is an important area for bird reproduction refuges and a corridor for migrating species. In addition, the site is rich in endemism and presents a tremendous biological and ecologic wealth of paramount economic importance for the country.
The human population surrounding the Gulf of California is approximately 487,000, mainly in Guaymas, Mazatlan, La Paz, and San Felipe. In addition, more than 700 nomadic 'Seris' and 'Konnak' indigenous people (1995) live in Isla Tiburon and San Esteban, engaged in fisheries, handicrafts, and traditional knowledge and practices systems.
The islands are arid and abrupt, with irregular coastlines and cliffs of varying heights, and some of their beaches are sandy, gravelly or pebbly, but most are rocky. They are included in the Sonoran Desert, and approximately 665 species of plants have been identified.
Flora and Fauna
Cactus and other succulent plants prevail and are the most notorious island flora. Some islands with swampy areas or protected bays, such as along the east coast of Isla Tiburon, contain low mangroves. Some islands with sandy beaches have coastal dune vegetation, protecting the soil from erosion.
The islands of the Gulf of California contain animal species such as 'la iguana chukwalla' (Sauromalus varius), 'lobos marinos' (Zalophus californianus), and 'golondrinas marinas' (Sterna elegans). Their origin is associated to tectonic and volcanic activities.
The reptile group is the most relevant of the land vertebrates, with a high level of endemic species. There are 115 species of reptiles representing close to 10% of Mexico's herpetological diversity.
Coyotes and Mule Deer are among the larger mammals. In addition, large colonies of California Sea Lions are among the marine mammals living in the coastal zone of the islands.
There are approximately 154 species of land birds representing 30 families. Among these, no endemic species are found because of their ability to move between the islands and the continent. Therefore, population forms don't differ from those found in the peninsula or the mainland. Approximately 50% of the total number of land, beach, and water bird species are migratory.