In its continuing efforts to conserve and protect cultural and natural heritage, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has declared the Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California (also known as Sea of Cortez) in Baja California, Mexico, a World Heritage Site.
UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites are diverse and unique wonders, such as the Great Wall of China, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the Galápagos Islands, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, wildlife preserves in East Africa, the Taj Mahal, Indonesia’s tropical rain forests, and the Grand Canyon in the US. Baja California’s Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California is the newest addition to that impressive list. UNESCO reports that the Islands of the Gulf of California contain “striking natural beauty in a dramatic setting formed by rugged islands with high cliffs and sandy beaches, which contrast with the brilliant reflection from the desert and the surrounding turquoise waters.” The investigators were amazed at the diversity and abundance of bird and marine life, determining that the area “constitutes a unique eco-region of high priority for biodiversity conservation.”
The UNESCO site in the Sea of Cortez is home to 695 plant species, more than any other marine or island property on the World Heritage List. It is home to 891 species of fish (90% of which are endemic), 39% of the world’s total number of marine mammal species, and one third of the world’s marine whale and dolphin species.