Gray whales of Baja California Sur, a tourist attraction in expansion

By Ana Lopez Barron

After reaching its largest population in almost 20 years, the gray whale has definitely become an important tourist attraction for the Mexican state of Baja California Sur, a frequent destination for visitors from the United States and Canada.

The Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources, or Semarnat, reported this week that by late February this year there had been sightings of 2,652 of the cetaceans in the lagoons of Ojo de Liebre and San Ignacio, where they gather annually during this season of the year.

The number is considered “one of the best averages of the past 19 years and is 10 percent more than the 2,419 whales sighted in the previous season,” Semarnat said.

In the third week of February, 1,129 whale calves were born in these natural areas, while 1,523 adult whales arrived there from Alaska.

Though the gray whales started their return to Alaska earlier this year as a consequence of the El Niño phenomenon, which warms water temperatures and so facilitates their return, hundreds of the cetaceans can still be observed and the whale watching tours will not end until next April 30.

This marine mammal’s migration takes four months, biologist Benito Bermudez Almada of the National Protected Natural Areas Commission, or CONANP, told visiting journalists.

“More than where they come from, I would talk about where they go, because they’re Mexicans – they mate here and here they are born. But they have to go to the United States to eat because the waters there are richer in the kind of food they’re looking for,” Bermudez said.

It takes tourists just a two-hour airplane flight from La Paz, capital of Baja California Sur, to Guerrero Negro in the municipality of Mulege, to be able to observe this natural beauty.

The gray whale is one of the largest species of the undersea world and one of the animals strictly protected by Mexican regulations, since poaching of the species caused a sharp decline in its numbers in the early 20th century. EFE

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