Baja California & Sea of Cortez

The nutrient-rich waters of the Pacific Ocean off Baja California and the Sea of Cortez in Mexico attract marine life and people to their incredible biodiversity.

The Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy[1] has joined local partner Beta Diversidad to work with local communities, fishermen’s groups, non-governmental organisations, and scientists to call for the creation of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) spanning the Sea of Cortez and into the Pacific.

Baja California’s Pacific region is a hotspot for top ocean predators, including great white sharks. Other threatened shark species, such as scalloped hammerheads, whale sharks, thresher sharks, and silky sharks have all been observed in these waters. Their presence has helped support a strong recreational dive industry. Every year, grey whales migrate more than 15,000 km between their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic to breeding and nursing grounds in three coastal lagoons of the southern Baja peninsula. The region is also a feeding ground for five of the world’s seven sea turtle species, which are threatened by illegal fishing and often killed as bycatch.

Famously called “the world’s aquarium” by oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, the Sea of Cortez is one of the most biologically diverse bodies of water on Earth. The ocean habitat supports super-pods of more than 1,000 dolphins, schools of jumping mobula rays, and colonies of sea lions along the coastline. It is home to nearly 900 species of fish, including 77 found nowhere else on the planet. At least 26 species of seabirds breed on the islands. The Sea of Cortez also serves as a major feeding and breeding zone for large marine mammals, including blue, humpback, grey, sperm, pilot, Baird’s beaked, and Bryde’s whales.

An MPA would also preserve dwindling stocks of Pacific sardines, which are essential to sustain the migratory species that rely on the area, including marine mammals, sharks, tunas, billfish, and sea turtles. Protecting these regions would safeguard rich marine life and sustain the resources that have long supported local economies.

[1] The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Bertarelli Foundation joined forces in 2017 to create the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project. Their aim is to create the first generation of ecologically significant and effective marine reserves around the world. The project builds on a decade of work by the two organizations to protect the ocean. Between them, they have helped obtain designations to safeguard 8.2 million square kilometres of ocean by working with philanthropic partners, indigenous groups, community leaders, government officials, and scientists. Since 2010, the Bertarelli Foundation has helped protect the ocean for future generations, through both marine conservation and collaborative marine science research.