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Laguna San Ignacio is the center of a unique marine ecosystem surrounded by, and part of the â€śVizcanio Biosphere Reserve.â€ť It is included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site: â€śWhale Sanctuary of El Vizcanio.â€ť The lagoon is best known for gray whales that congregate there each winter to breed and calve. However, it is also home to dolphin, sea turtles, sealions, commercially important fish and shellfish, multitudes of migratory waterfowl and shore birds, and supports some of the worldâ€™s most productive red-mangrove and coastal wetland ecosystems within its shores.
World-wide attention was focused on Laguna San Ignacio in the late 1990s when it was targeted as the site for an industrial scale solar salt production facility; a project that would have significantly altered the lagoon ecosystem, perhaps irreversibly. Since the defeat of that proposal, local residents, fishing co-operatives, and local entrepreneurs have developed eco-tourism focusing on the winter-time abundance of gray whales, and more recently marine birds. Annually these companies host thousands of whale-watchers and eco-tourists from many countries, and provide livelihoods for the lagoon residents. Through education, information sharing, and responsible management, they are striving to become stewards of the â€śecosystemâ€ť and to maintain a balance between eco-tourism and the biological integrity of the lagoon.
A consortium of environmental groups and local business organizations developed a â€śConservation Plan for the Laguna San Ignacio Wetlands Complexâ€ť (Wildcoast 2008) which seeks to secure the future development rights for the wetlands surrounding the lagoon.
Beginning in 2009, LSIESP researchers began visiting local schools and providing classroom presentations on the lagoonâ€™s wildlife and its significance as a coastal resource for marine life and the local economy. Primary and secondary students make site visits to the lagoon where they participate in â€śhands onâ€ť learning activities led by LSIESP researches. These science based information and education programs strengthen the studentsâ€™ awareness of the need to conserve Laguna San Ignacio and its living marine resources for the future.