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    From Water Quality to Whales, ICF’s Donors Protect the Beauty of Baja

    Photo by Dr. Jorge Urban Ramirez
    Gray whales in Laguna San Ignacio, captured by local Conservation Scientist Dr. Jorge Urban Ramirez.

    No question we San Diegans are spoiled by the countless benefits of living in our unique region – from the mild climate, to world-class food and breweries, to our diverse culture, we enjoy one of the best lifestyles in the world.

    Join ICF on a Whale-Watching Tour to Laguna San Ignacio, March 27-31st, 2017! This includes a $500 US tax-deductible donation to the Laguna San Ignacio Whale Fund.

    Yet there’s one particularly significant benefit of living in San Diego: its close proximity to Baja California.

    Running along Mexico’s west coast for nearly 800 miles, the Baja Peninsula – named “the world’s aquarium” by the famous biologist Jacques Cousteau – is a testament to the beauty of nature. It’s unsurprising that Baja is included in The New York Times’ 52 Places to Go in 2017; after all, it boasts excellent wine, pristine natural habitats to nearly 3,000 different species, and some of the best diving in the world.

    But like all regions on Earth, maintaining and protecting the beauty of Baja requires substantial time and resources. The International Community Foundation (ICF) – a non-profit committed to improving the quality of life for communities throughout Baja, Mexico, and Latin America – has been a recognized leader in these important conservation efforts for the past 25 years.

    Photo by Samuel McLaughlin
    Photo by Samuel McLaughlin
    Hector Alianza, the Loreto Waterkeeper and program officer at Eco-Alianza de Loreto, A.C during a water quality monitoring in the marine protected area of Loreto.

    Baja Waterkeepers Keep Baja Beautiful

    Two of ICF’s current campaigns – The Baja Waterkeepers Fund and the Laguna San Ignacio Whale Conservation Fund – focus on protecting the precious Baja coastline while educating the public on how to experience the beauty of the region first-hand.

    The Baja Waterkeepers, part of the U.S.-based Waterkeeper Alliance that protects waterways around the world, is a group of 10 individuals with scientific backgrounds who monitor over 75 sites along the Baja coastline for bacteria, agrochemical and other pollutants that pose public health risks. They also conduct surveillance work in marine protected areas to ensure that sustainable fishing laws are being enforced, and conduct educational and business development workshops to bring the local community onboard in their conservation efforts.

    ICF has fostered the growth of the Baja Waterkeepers by offering guidance and fiscal support through  The Baja Waterkeepers Fund. “The work of the Baja Waterkeepers is so important because the Baja peninsula greatly impacts the health of communities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Marisa Quiroz, Senior Program Officer at ICF.

    One of the most critical roles the Baja Waterkeepers play is publishing water quality results in the form of a downloadable Swim Guide. The public demand for this information is clear – the number of users of the Mexico version of the guide increased over 500% between 2015 and 2016 alone. The data in the Swim Guide is especially important in communities with heavy metal contamination from mining operations have occurred, as it impacts the sea life populations that the town’s fishermen depend on for their livelihoods.

    In addition to monitoring and advocacy, the Baja Waterkeepers educate local communities through workshops, beach cleanups, and youth leadership to protect watershed ecosystems.

    Photo by Dr. Jorge Urban Ramirez
    Photo by Dr. Jorge Urban Ramirez
    Gray whales in Laguna San Ignacio, captured by local Conservation Scientist Dr. Jorge Urban Ramirez.

    The Best Whale Watching in All of Baja

    Hands down, one of the best ways to witness the amazing conservation efforts of the Baja Waterkeepers is to head down to gorgeous Laguna San Ignacio, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located approximately 500 miles south of Tijuana.

    Donate to ICF’s Waterkeepers of Baja California Fund today to save a global treasure and the gray whales that depend on it.

    Laguna San Ignacio provides habitat for sea turtles, peregrine falcons, ospreys, and hundreds of thousands of migratory waterfowl and shorebirds. Regional fishing cooperatives, fishermen, tourist outfitters, and guides work together in a sustainable fashion to make a living from the region’s valuable natural resources.

    But perhaps Laguna San Ignacio’s biggest draw is that it’s Baja’s annual mating and calving destination for hundreds of gray whales. In fact, it’s the very last undeveloped gray whale birthing lagoon on the planet. Sadly, land speculation and unregulated urban sprawl threaten to destroy Laguna San Ignacio – something ICF has been working hard to combat for years.

    In 2005, ICF joined forces with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Pronatura Noroeste A.C., and Wildcoast/Costasalvaje to form the Laguna San Ignacio Conservation Alliance. The goal of the Alliance is to work with local communities to provide permanent protection for Laguna San Ignacio and its gray whales by protecting the land, promoting sustainable economic development, and monitoring and removing threats.

    “Laguna San Ignacio is a global example of innovation, protection, and leadership,” said Anne McEnany, Executive Director at ICF. “It’s a place where conservation organizations work together effectively, and where we can truly see how a future of communities and conservation living side-by-side is possible.”

    Photo by Samuel McLaughlin
    Photo by Samuel McLaughlin

    Join ICF’s Whale Watching Tour to Laguna San Ignacio

    What’s more, Laguna San Ignacio’s whale season is happening right now, through the end of March — and specialized tours allow visitors to actually touch the animals. One such tour is ICF’s exclusive whale watching visit in Laguna San Ignacio from March 27-31, 2017. The tour –open to the public, with slots still available – is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that gives guests exclusive access to the local field stations and conservation scientists who have been protecting the region.

    If you can’t leave San Diego to experience Baja first-hand, be sure to visit the Natural History Museum’s IMAX theatre to watch Ocean Oasis, a stunning film about the beautiful mammals and sites in the Baja Peninsula.