From: Reuters
Published September 28, 2005 12:00 AM

Whale-Rich Mexican Sea Named World Heritage Site

MEXICO CITY — Hundreds of islands in Mexico's Sea of Cortez, a major whale breeding ground, have been declared protected areas by the United Nations, the government said Monday.


The 244 islands, along with miles of mainland beaches in Mexico's Baja California, Sonora and Nayarit states, were declared World Heritage sites by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, a presidential spokesman told reporters.


The declaration does not impose new environmental restrictions in the region, but should make it easier for Mexico to seek funding for the islands, whose protection is now seen as an international responsibility.


Around 40 percent of sea mammal species can be found in the warm and deep sea around the islands in Northwestern Mexico, also known as the Gulf of California.


The arid islands themselves house numerous species of cactus along with birds and animals, including the endangered Bighorn sheep.


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The legendary French diver Jacques Cousteau reputedly described the Sea of Cortez as the "world's aquarium," but despite previous protection projects its abundant sea-life has for decades been threatened by overfishing.


The World Heritage designation was created in 1972 to protect cultural sites and natural areas considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. The UNESCO list now includes more than 800 sites. Twenty-five are in Mexico.


Source: Reuters


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