The reduction of covid-19 infections allows them to recover their income and fulfill their desire to get to know the cetacean.
“It is the best day of my life. I had dreamed of whales before (…), I really wanted to be” close to them, Wilbert, a Mexican tourist, told AFP about these animals that travel about 9,000 km for three months to mate in the warm waters of the west coast of the Baja California Peninsula and the Gulf of California.
Coming from the seas of Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort, Alaska, they are up to 15 meters long and weigh an average of 30 tons.
“The whales behaved very well, moved us a lot,” added Wilbert, who traveled from Oaxaca (south) to the gray whale sanctuary of the El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve in Mulegé, Baja California Sur (northwest).
Unlike many other countries, Mexico did not restrict tourism and was the third most visited destination in 2020. However, it suspended non-essential activities for part of last year, including nautical tourism.
In particular, in March 2020, the government canceled boat trips to observe these cetaceans (Eschrichtius robustus), which show their gigantic body before diving to the surprise of visitors.
But due to the drop in the spread of the virus, at the beginning of the observation season – from January to April – the government allowed the vessels to travel with 30% occupancy, a percentage that was later raised to 50%.
“We kept the jobs and we hope to leave, if not with a profit, (to be able) to pay off some of the debts,” Luis Enrique Achoy of Malarrimo Eco-Tours, a whale watching company, told AFP.
– More whales observed – Baja California is on a yellow alert, the third on the epidemiological risk scale for coronavirus, which has claimed almost 203,000 lives in Mexico.
Achoy guarantees that the number of whales observed in the El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve has increased in the current season.
“Their standard is the same and really the problems they have with man are still there, the sea routes (…), which were not solved with the pandemic, remain the same”, but even so “we had 1,500 to 1,700 whales, slightly above average, “added Achoy.
Naman Domínguez, a fisherman and tour guide with 27 years of experience in this activity, was one of those affected by the restrictions.
“Yes, it affected us. At the moment, six, seven people per boat at most, due to the healthy distance (…) but everything is adjusting, everything has gradually improved. As for the level (of contagions), tourism has been increasing “, celebrates.
The gray whale, which was in danger of extinction in the early 20th century, feeds on crustaceans in the Bering Sea during the northern summer and mates in winter in the Ojo de Liebre, San Ignacio and Magdalena Bay lagoons in Baja California Sur, although some mate on the way.
“We were able to touch them, see the mother with her baby and the two stayed there playing with us,” said Mexican Claudia Gaitán.
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