The Coastal Post - June, 1998

Mexican Hat Dance On Environmental Protections For Whales

By Scott Wilmore, [email protected]

North America's single greatest effort to protect endangered species, the gray whale, is now in grave danger due to efforts of Mitsubishi Corporation and the Mexican government's plans to construct massive salt evaporation ponds covering 116 square miles of whale habitat.

Every winter thousands of gray whales, many pregnant, leave the cold waters of Alaska and migrate four thousand miles south to the warm lagoons off Mexico's Baja coast. A few weeks later these lagoons are teeming with one-ton newborn whales.

The whales are very limited in finding suitable nurseries for several reasons:

The lagoon waters are warm enough that the young whales do not lose precious body heat, and the high salinity buoys up the young whales, allowing them to nurse from their mothers more easily. Three months later they are ready to face the arduous journey north to the feeding grounds of Alaska.

Of the three lagoon nurseries in Baja, only one-Laguna San Ignacio-remains undisturbed by human encroachment....but not for long. Mitsubishi, a huge Japanese conglomerate, and its Mexican allies at the Ministryof Trade are joint venturing a project to build the world's largest salt factory at Laguna San Ignacio; 116 square miles of evaporation ponds to be constructed out of the surrounding terrain.

Anticipated fallout from this project include:

Giant diesel engines pumping six thousand gallons of water from the lagoon EVERY SECOND-possibly altering the salinity so imperative to the newborn whales.

A mile-long concrete pier cutting directly across the migration path, impeding their progress and greatly increasing the possibility of injury or death from collision with this pier.

Huge ocean going ships and diesel tankers docking at the pier--disrupting whale migration, spewing pollution, and adding the risk of a massive fuel spill!

In light of the giant so-what? Earth Day 98, the three warmest years ever recorded, and the worst Winter in recent memory...Time to Mobilize! Write now to the Presidents of Mitsubishi, and Mexico. They know that Americans will stand united to defend the Gray Whale. Ask why the 465 page Environmental Impact Assessment devoted just 23 lines to the Whale population.

Target Mitsubishi for consumer protest and boycotts. Mitsubishi is already among the worst destroyers of ancient rainforests in Malaysia and elsewhere. They have been subject to a boycott by Rainforest Action Network for several years. Consider joining the National Resources Defense Council. During this campaign they are offering memberships for just $10. Natural Resources Defense Council 40 West 20th St., New York, NY 10011.

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