Scientists accuse Mitsubishi of threatening the gray whale

Thirty-four eminent scientists, including nine Nobel prize laureates, have joined in the fight against a planned a saltworks facility in Baja California, Mexico. Disagreement surrounds whether a plan to build a 260km² saltworks threatens the San Ignacio Lagoon, the last pristine breeding ground of the gray whale.

A letter urging Mitsubishi, one of the owners of the consortium involved in the project, to abandon the saltworks plan, was signed by 34 of the world’s most respected scientists. The letter was published as a full-page advertisement in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Mexican daily, Reforma. The ads were sponsored by a Mexican-led international coalition.

Exportadora de Sal, S.A. (ESSA) is a joint venture, with the Mexican Government holding 51 percent ownership and Mitsubishi Corporation, holding the remaining 49 percent. ESSA has produced and exported salt from sea water since 1954. The company already operates saltworks in two other lagoons in the area.

San Ignacio Lagoon lies near to, but outside of, the region’s Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve, the largest reserve in Latin America. The reserve was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.

The proposed saltworks would be larger than the San Ignacio Lagoon itself.

ESSA argues that the saltworks will not harm the gray whale population, but others do not agree. In 1995, the Mexican government cited environmental and legal concerns when it rejected a request by ESSA to begin work on the site. A second study, commissioned by ESSA, of the saltworks’ environmental impacts will shortly be presented to the Mexican Environment Ministry.

Noteworthy scientists who signed the letter protesting ESSA’s plans included:

  • Mario Molina
  • Murray Gell-Mann
  • Andrew Huxley
  • Richard Dawkinds
  • Stephen Jay Gould
  • Edward O Wilson
  • Paul Ehrlich
  • Sidney Holt
  • Roger Payne
  • Rene Drucker-Colin
  • Aaron Klug
  • Sylvia Earle
  • Jared Diamond

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