Sea of Cortez declared World Heritage Site

Sea of Cortez Islands and Protected Areas Declared World Heritage Site

South Africa. July 15, 2005. The World Heritage Committee chaired by Themba Wakashe, South Africa’s Deputy Director-General for Heritage and National Archives, today inscribed seven natural sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List including the Sea of Cortez.

This is a critical step in the long-term preservation of one of the world's most important biodiversity areas and a veritable wildlife wonderland. Two of the four conservation areas that Wildcoast works to protect, Bahia de los Angeles and Laguna San Ignacio, are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites.


The Sea of Cortez World Heritage site comprises 244 islands, islets and coastal areas that are located in the Gulf of California in northeastern Mexico. The Sea of Cortez and its islands have been called a natural laboratory for the investigation of speciation. Moreover, almost all major oceanographic processes occurring in the planet’s oceans are present in the property, giving it extraordinary importance for study. The site is one of 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 site is home to 695 vascular plant species, more than in any marine and insular property on the World Heritage List. Equally exceptional is the number of fish species: 891, ninety of them endemic. The site, moreover, contains 39% of the world’s total number of species of marine mammals and a third of the world’s marine cetacean species.