The Laguna San Ignacio Conservation Alliance

Blue Carbon | Community | Mangroves | ocean | Whales

A Global Model for Protecting Whales and Sustainable Community Development

Laguna San Ignacio, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located on the Pacific Coast of the Baja California Peninsula, is the last undeveloped gray whale birthing lagoon on the planet. Part of the Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, the Laguna San Ignacio Wetland Complex is home to gray whales, green sea turtles, peregrine falcons, and hundreds of thousands of migratory waterfowl and shorebirds. 

Image by Miguel Angel de la Cueva

For the past three decades, the Laguna San Ignacio Conservation Alliance has worked to assure the long-term protection of  the ecosystems of Laguna San Ignacio as well as support sustainable community development initiatives. The Alliance includes as members WILDCOAST, Pronatura Noroeste, International Community Foundation (ICF), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Ejido Luis Echeverría Alvarez, Laguna Baja ARIC, and the Comunidad Maijanu Ecological Reserve. 

The Alliance mission is to work with community-based organizations and private landowners within the Laguna San Ignacio Wetland Complex to protect key ecosystems and to help invest in community benefit projects. In 2006, the Alliance established a 140,000-acre conservation easement comprising all the communal and individual ejidal parcels within the ejido Luis Echeverría Alvarez (ELA) on the southern shore of Laguna San Ignacio.

An ejido is a collective land cooperative managed by rural communities in Mexico. It includes collectively held land owned as equal shares by all ejido members as well as individual parcels owned by each ejido member. This legally binding agreement is a model for conserving both the environment and investing in the local community. This pioneering conservation agreement was reported on by The New York Times among other publications. 

Above: Claudio Contreras Koob, Below: Alejandra Chacón

Additionally the Alliance supported the direct conservation by Pronatura Noroeste of an additional 300,000-acres of land on the northern shore of the lagoon through an innovative conservation concession. The land had once been slated for development by the Mexican Salt Exporting Company, a joint venture between the Mexican federal government and Mitsubishi.

Image by Miguel Angel de la Cueva

WILDCOAST also worked with the Mexican Protected Area Commission (CONANP) to enact federal conservation concessions over 150 miles of lagoon shoreline. These conservation tools will help to prevent any future development along the lagoon’s sensitive shoreline. 

As part of the Alliance, the International Community Foundation manages a trust fund that is invested back into the lagoon community each year for sustainable and community development initiatives. Currently the Alliance is working with the Ejido Luis Echeverria to develop a long-term plan for: natural resource management and conservation; community development and ecotourism training; and implementing natural climate solutions. 

WILDCOAST is currently also working with a local women’s cooperative in Laguna San Ignacio to restore and protect mangroves that help to protect the lagoon against storm surge, rising sea levels, store carbon and provide key habitat for commercially valuable fish and shellfish species.

Your generous donation can make a big difference for the long-term protection of this iconic, inspiring and unforgettable gray whale lagoon. By continuing to invest in protecting key ecosystems that shelter gray whales, natural climate solutions, and investing in local community development we can continue to carry out this high impact and successful conservation initiative for years to come.