Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive!

Vol. VII No. 4 October 1998

Mitsubishi Threatens Gray Whales

by William Rossiter, CSI President

In July the Mexican Environment Secretariat announced that 94 endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles died last December from salt brine and other contaminants dumped by a major salt plant into Ojo de Liebre Lagoon, a key habitat for gray whales and other wildlife. The spillage of brine came from the salt evaporation beds of the salt plant owned and operated by Exportadora de Sal, S.A. de C.V. (ESSA) and the Japanese Mitsubishi Corporation. Mitsubishi is working with ESSA to develop over 92 square miles of land for a massive salt plant facility in San Ignacio Lagoon, Baja, Mexico. San Ignacio Lagoon is the last pristine gray whale birthing lagoon in Baja and is a key part of the Vizcaino Reserve, a World Heritage site designated by UNESCO to protect desert and marine ecosystems across the entire Baja Peninsula. The Mexican National Ecology Institute (environmental agency) has already rejected a preliminary environmental assessment prepared by ESSA in 1995. Japan's Mitsubishi Corporation historically was deeply involved in the decimation of various whale species during commercial whaling operations. The proposed plant threatens this gray whale birthing area with construction and operation noise, air and water pollution, and transport of salt by vessels. The salt production will divert scarce fresh water and produce large quantities of toxic bitterns as a byproduct, toxins which have already killed the 94 endangered sea turtles last December. The salt plant would further disrupt the local habitats of native wildlife and plants, as well as the tourist trade and local fishing, the mainstays of the local economy.

As the destructive plans continued CSI joined in September with more than a dozen Mexican environmental organizations and local fishing cooperatives of San Ignacio, and many international environmental organizations led by Earth Island Institute, to implore Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and the CEO of Mitsubishi Corp. to withdraw plans for the industrial salt extraction plant at San Ignacio Lagoon. Earth Island has a free postcard kit for those who wish to help with this issue. Call 415-788-3666 or e-mail marinemammal@earthisland.org for more information.

Now it's your turn. For the whales and wildlife of San Ignacio please write polite letters of protest to:

President Ernesto Zedillo
c/o Mexican Embassy
1911 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20006

Senor Mario Aguilar
Minister of the Environment
c/o Mexican Embassy
1911 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20006

Mr. James Brumm
Executive Vice President
Mitsubishi International Corp.
520 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10022

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