San Ignacio Under Siege: 20 Years Later
Hidden in the vast desert landscapes of Baja California, San Ignacio lagoon is the last remaining pristine gray whale breeding and birthing lagoon in the world. Each winter, gray whales migrate up to 5,000 miles from the cold waters of Alaska to San Ignacio to deliver their new calves in the shallow, protected lagoon waters. Enjoying the view of untouched beaches from our San Ignacio camp, where the vast desert meets coastal mangroves, it is hard to believe that only 20 years ago it was almost changed beyond recognition…
Threat to San Ignacio
In 1995, the Mitsubishi corporation and the Mexican government launched plans to construct an industrial salt plant on San Ignacio lagoon. The project included a mile-long pier placed directly on the whales’ migration route. Apart from changing the landscape and salt content of the lagoon forever, the quiet lagoon waters would now echo with the sounds of 116 miles of pumps and the constant traffic of large ships, reaping havoc on gray whale conservation.
The community of San Ignacio, fiercely independent small-scale fishermen who now depend on gray whale-based ecotourism as a large part of their annual income, would have been forever changed as well.
Coming Together to Save the Gray Whales
What followed Mitsubishi’s announcement was an inspiring uprising, crossing borders and industries to protect this critical gray whale habitat. Diverse groups, ranging from the National Resources Defense Council, the local community ejido and the “Group of 100” alliance of Mexican environmentalists; to stars such as Pierce Brosnan and Glenn Close, all rallied to raise awareness and created one of the largest environmental campaigns of all time.
Facing enormous international pressure, on March 2, 2000 Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo announced the cancellation of the project and a monumental win for gray whale conservation.
San Ignacio Today: A Gray Whale Conservation Success Story
Thanks to these conservation efforts, San Ignacio Lagoon remains as untouched and remote as ever as part of the sprawling Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve. The whales of San Ignacio and the community continue to coexist in a heartwarming symbiosis in which the local community and gray whales depend on each other for survival.
To visit the lagoon for yourself and come face to face with a gray whale, our San Ignacio camp reopens January 25, 2021. Baja Expeditions works in partnership with the local community and a large portion of each trip cost supports local workers and conservation efforts.