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Human-gray whale collaboration fosters long-term development.

Human-gray whale collaboration fosters long-term development.
Human-gray whale collaboration fosters long-term development.

Without the attraction of food, Mexican gray whales have been observed seeking physical contact with humans in three lagoons along the Pacific coast of Baja Sur, Mexico. Despite being hunted to near-extinction in these lagoons for generations, the whales remain trustworthy, according to naturalist Jim Dorsey. Since the last whaling station closed in 1971, the whales have developed an unusual bond with people, allowing them to pet and interact with them. Because of its high salt content, the San Ignacio Lagoon, the smallest of the three lagoons, is a suitable nursery for gray whale calves. Whales migrate from Alaska to Baja Sur, where females give birth in the protection of the lagoons before returning to Alaska's waters.

The whales' trust in humans has played a crucial role in safeguarding one of the world's few mostly undisturbed whale nurseries. Since 1988, the San Ignacio Lagoon has been a component of the El Vizcaino Biosphere, Latin America's largest nature reserve, and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1993. The collaboration of communities, scientists, world-renowned activists, and the Mexican government benefits whales, wildlife, and humans alike. During peak whale season, from January to early April, fishing is prohibited, and people make a living by managing eight visitor camps along the lagoon or by renting limited whale watching boats.

Asha de Vos, a Mexican marine biologist, urges humans to "respect these animals in their own homes, not just for their sake, but also for our sake, because they help fight climate change." Unusual near contacts between whales and humans, such as those in the San Ignacio Lagoon, ensure the preservation of one of the world's few completely undisturbed whale nurseries.

The San Ignacio Lagoon is an example of civic society working together to safeguard the environment, and it coincides with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, which calls for the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas, and marine resources.

Furthermore, the cooperation between people and whales demonstrates a deep bond between the two. Dorsey believes that humans and whales are related because whale ancestors roamed on land millions of years ago before venturing into the seas. Because of its slow pace and lack of echolocation, the gray whale was an easy target for hunters. The whales were also treasured by the Indigenous Cochim, who depicted them in ancient cave paintings on the Baja California peninsula.

The San Ignacio Lagoon exemplifies how humans may collaborate with nature to achieve long-term prosperity. The SDGs recognize the necessity of forming partnerships in order to create a more sustainable future. SDG 17 asks for collaboration across many sectors, including governments, civil society, and the commercial sector. The San Ignacio Lagoon approach corresponds with this SDG because it demonstrates how collaboration between different organizations can contribute to environmental protection while also creating sustainable livelihoods for communities.

Youtube credits: @NautilusLiveaboards


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