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The Sea of Cortez

The Sea of Cortez

The Sea of Cortez. Also known as the Gulf of California, the Sea of Cortez is a body of water between Baja California and mainland Mexico.

The Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California, is a body of water between Baja California and mainland Mexico. Baja California is a skinny strip of land containing two Mexican States called Baja California Norte and Baja California Sur. Home to more than a million people, Baja California is the second longest peninsula in the world after the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia.           

The Gold Coast is the name given to the shoreline “loop” that runs from La Paz at the bottom of Baja California Sur all the way to San Diego on the US-Mexico border and round and down to Creel in Chihuahua and back across the Gulf of California to La Paz to complete the circuit.

The Sea of Cortez is among the top five seas in the world with regards to biological diversity. For example, this five million year old sea is home to humpback, gray and blue whales, dolphins as well as nearly 900 species of fish, more than 5000 varieties of macro-invertebrates and over 3000 plant species, some of which grow nowhere else in the world. A macro-invertebrate is an animal without a backbone that is large enough to be seen without a microscope.

The high nutrient levels in the sea water of the Gulf of California provide perfect conditions for the growth of plankton – the base of the ecological food chain.

Plankton are marine organisms that are incapable of swimming against the tide and are a crucial food source for fish and whales and other large aquatic organisms. Crustaceans along with small fish feed also feed on the plankton while larger fish feed on the smaller fish creating a complete and sustainable food chain. This is why the Sea of Cortez contains such a copious number of different creatures.

The health of the Sea of Cortez has been under threat for many years so professionals from the USA and Mexico have worked together and invested time, money and effort into creating a database, the Macrofauna Golfo Project, including the details of every single macro-invertebrate that exists in the Gulf of California. The project aim is to develop conservation plans for all of the endangered species of macro-invertebrate in order to prevent them from dying out since they are the base and most elemental part of the food chain.

The Log from the Sea of Cortez is a book written by John Steinbeck about a 6-week specimen-collecting expedition that he made with his companion Ed Ricketts in 1940. The two men, united in friendship from a common interest in marine biology, collected specimens from the rock pools along the pacific coast and down into Mexico. They preserved the specimens they collected and composed a detailed list of their findings to sell on their return. Steinbeck and Ricketts hoped that the money they made from the log would more than make up for the money they spent on the trip in the first place.