The Gray Whale Nurseries

Click on this map for details about the four gray whale nursery lagoons on Mexico's Baja Peninsula. Whales arrive in the lagoons from early December through late January. Mothers and calves stay until April or even May. The lagoons are like bus stations, with whales coming and going all through the winter and early spring.

The northernmost of the four breeding and calving lagoons in Baja, Guerrero Negro means "Black Warrior." This lagoon and the town about 20 miles away are named for the Black Warrior, a whaling ship that went down there in 1858. The world's largest salt production started on Black Warrior Lagoon and later moved to the much larger Laguna Ojo de Liebre.

More than half the gray whale births take place in Laguna Ojo de Libre. This lagoon receives the greatest number of whales in Baja California every year. Formerly known as Scammon's Lagoon, this huge watery complex is named for Captain Charles Scammon. Scammon charted many of these areas in the mid-1800s as he hunted gray whales. UNESCO has named Laguna Ojo de Liebre and Laguna San Ignacio a World Heritage Site because they are important breeding and calving areas for the gray whale.

San Ignacio is about 500 miles south of San Diego, and 80 miles (120 km) south of Laguna Ojo de Liebre. It is 16 miles long and 3-4 miles wide, and several hundred whales come and go throughout the mating and calving season. San Ignacio is the only remaining calving and birthing lagoon that is still undisturbed by human development. In March 2000, the Mexican government vetoed plans to build a huge new salt production facility here. Mexico's President Zedillo said the deciding factor was "the national and world importance and the uniqueness of the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve."

This is the southernmost nursery of Mexico's Baja California coast. Fewer than 6% of the gray whale births occur here. Magdalena Bay is 180 miles (270 km) south of San Ignacio. Its waters are famous for the amount of fish and seafood. Sportfishing is big business here, but whale watching becomes the main attraction from January through March. This large bay is not part of the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve.