This article is from the February 2000 The Mexico File
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Saving the Gray Whale
by Serge Dedina, Ph.D. University of Arizona Press, 2000. Paper: ISDN 0-8165-1846-7; $17.95; Cloth ISDN 0-8165-1845-9; $37.50.
Once hunted by whalers and
now the darling of ecotourists, the gray whale has become part of the culture,
history, politics, and geography of Mexico’s most isolated region. After the
harvesting of gray whales was banned by international law in 1946, their
populations rebounded; but while they are no longer hunted for their oil, these
creatures are now chased up and down the lagoons of southern Baja California by
This book uses the biology
and politics associated with gray whales in Mexican waters to present an unusual
case study in conservation and politics. It provides an inside look at how gray
whale conservation decisions are made in Mexico City and examines how those
policies and programs are carried out in the calving grounds of San Ignacio
Lagoon and Magdalena Bay, where catering to ecotourists is now an integral part
of the local economy.
Saving the Gray Whale
also explores the politics behind the battle over San Ignacio Lagoon – where
Mitsubishi has proposed building the world’s largest industrial salt facility.
More than a study of
conservation politics, Dedina’s book puts a human face on wildlife
conservation. The author lived for two years with residents of Baja communities
to understand their attitudes about wildlife conservation and Mexican politics,
and he accompanied many in daily activities to show the extent to which the
local economy depends on whalewatching.
“It is ironic,” observes
Dedina, “that residents of some of the most isolated fishing villages in North
America are helping to redefine our relationship with wild animals. Americans
and Europeans brought the gray whale population to the brink of extinction. The
inhabitants of San Ignacio Lagoon and Magdalena Bay are helping us to celebrate
the whales’ survival.” By showing us how these animals have helped shape the
lifeways of the people with whom they share the lagoons, Saving the Gray
Serge Dedina grew up in San
Diego and has spent the last twenty years traipsing the back roads and surfing
the remote coastline of the Baja California peninsula. He is currently
Conservation Director of Wildcoast, an international conservation team
preserving the last coastal wildlands of the Californias. Serge received a Ph.D.
in Geography from the University of Texas at Austin.
(This book can be ordered by calling 1-800-426-3797 or by email at email@example.com
It can also be ordered
online from http://savingthegraywhale.org)