By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
An estimated 50,000 national and international tourists are expected to visit Baja California Sur over the next four months to witness the migration of gray whales that return each year to their winter homes and traditional breeding and birthing grounds at Laguna Ojo de Liebre, Guerrero Negro, Laguna San Ignacio, Bahía Magdalena, Puerto Adolfo López Mateos and Puerto San Carlos.
The massive sea mammals’ mating season runs from mid-December through mid-April, and the Mexican northern coastal state has become a haven for whale watchers from around the globe during this period.
To ensure that the whales’ mating and birthing processes are not interrupted by this growing ecotourism, both local and federal authorities carefully monitor all visits to the region and allow only a few boats at a time into the sheltered lagoons.
“The annual pilgrimage of the gray whales has become one of the most important touristic attractions for Baja California Sur,” said Genaro Ruíz Hernández, the state’s secretary of tourism, economy and sustainable developmen,t at the official start of the season earlier this month.
“The whales bring in thousands of visitors each year.”
Those visits translate into roughly $10 million in seasonal revenues for the state.
Ruíz Hernández also pointed out that, according to the National Commission for Protected Natural Areas (Conanp), an estimated 2,000 whales will make the water trek to Baja California Sur from northern waters this year.
Notwithstanding, according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) sources, the number of whales arriving in Baja California Sur waters is down this year by as much as 35 percent due to colder temperatures, which force the cetaceans to travel further south.