Author: Christian

Killer Whales Are Visiting the San Ignacio Lagoon

Killer Whales Are Visiting the San Ignacio Lagoon

New peril for gray whale survival? Predatory orcas spotted in Baja calving lagoon

The endangered gray whale, which is considered a keystone species on our coasts, is facing an unprecedented threat: killer whales.

Marine biologists have spotted dozens of killer whales, some of which are larger than the 30-foot, 1,000-pound whale that is the basis of the international gray whale conservation efforts. They are in and around the San Ignacio and San Lucas de Zaragosa lagoons, a vital natural gathering place for the animals.

The San Ignacio lagoon is where thousands of gray whales come to give birth each year. It also serves as a winter refuge for the endangered northern sea otter. Scientists have documented gray whale feeding and nesting there in recent years.

“This is a truly unique and important time for the San Ignacio gray whale,” says biologist Juan Soria of the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The San Ignacio lagoon is a fragile habitat where few humans have ever ventured, and there are no plans for development or human visitors. It was protected this year as part of a conservation treaty signed by Mexico and the U.S. in the 1980s that has since had no effect.

The federal government, concerned about the well-being of the gray whale, is now investigating the possibility of a major ecological threat. If so, officials say the San Ignacio lagoon, where thousands of whales arrive each year to give birth, could be in a state of emergency if killer whales return to the area and harass the whales.

“There’s no question that they’re here in the San Ignacio area,” says Richard Feely, director of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

Feely says the San Ignacio lagoon has been protected since the late 1980s as one of six marine wilderness areas that have been placed on the endangered species list.

The San

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