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The California Gray Whale: Its Legal Regime Under Mexican Law

38 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2006  

Jorge A. Vargas

University of San Diego School of Law

Date Written: September 11, 2006


The Gulf of California has been added as the newest site to the "World Heritage List." According to the evaluation study produced by UNESCO, thirty-nine per cent of the world's total number of species of marine mammals and a third of the world's marine cetacean species are found within this gulf. In May 2002, Mexico established the largest Marine Refuge Area in the world giving protection to 39 of the 81 world known species of large cetaceans.

Part One of this article introduces the legal regime established by Mexico to protect large whales within its exclusive economic zone, the territorial sea and the internal waters, by describing in detail the physical and biological characteristics of the Eastern Gray Whale population, commonly known as the California gray whale. This cetacean has been visiting the coastal lagoons along the west coast of the Baja California Peninsula since time immemorial in one of the longest annual migrations in the animal world. Part Two discusses the Mexican constitutional bases that serve as the foundation for the protection of large whales within Mexico's marine spaces. Part Three discusses the Mexican presidential decrees that established Refuge zones (or marine sanctuaries) for the protection of eight types of large whales, including the 1972 decree that created these marine sanctuaries for the first time on a global scale. And Part Four examines Mexico's domestic legislation involved in the protection of Mexico's resident whales (i.e., the gray whales), including the regulation of eco-tourism activities.

Keywords: Gray Whales, Marine Mammals, Mexican Law and Whales, Law of the Sea and Mexican Marine Mammals

JEL Classification: K1, K10

Suggested Citation

Vargas, Jorge A., The California Gray Whale: Its Legal Regime Under Mexican Law (September 11, 2006). San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 07-59. Available at SSRN: or

Jorge A. Vargas (Contact Author)

University of San Diego School of Law ( email )

5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States

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