> >Do you have information on ocean conservation problems caused by
>Mitsubishi Corp. of Japan?
Dear Steven, the following statement was made by the President of
Ocean Alliance a few months
Gray Whale Victory!
History - San Ignacio Lagoon Gray Whales Collaboration
Dr. Payne went to San Ignacio Lagoon twice in February and March 1999
with the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to introduce
representatives from Japan and elsewhere to the conflict arising over
a planned salt works. ESSA, a joint venture of Mitsubishi Corporation
(49 percent) and the Mexican government (51 percent) was planning to
build the world's biggest salt works on shores of Laguna San Ignacio,
in Baja California, Mexico. This lagoon was designated as a whale
sanctuary by Mexico (1976) as a part of the Viscaino Biosphere
Reserve - the largest international biosphere reserve in Latin
America (1988); and designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO
(1993). If the proposed salt works was built, the proposed outflow
pipes for bitterns would likely kill fish and poison the waters
through which gray whales must swim when entering or leaving San
Ignacio Lagoon. A broader issue was also at stake. Should one of the
world's largest industrial sites be allowed to be constructed in the
middle of a Sanctuary and Biosphere Preserve, particularly when the
slat works would be extracting water from, and discharging its wastes
into, a World Heritage Site?
Dr Payne worked intensively with the National Resources Defense
Council and the International Fund for Animal Welfare on this issue.
Roger wrote personal letters and called some of the worlds most
acclaimed scientits and asked them to put their names to a statement
that was aimed at stopping Mitsubishi and the Mexican Government from
constructing the salt plant on the shores of San Ignacio Lagoon. A
good friend Beto Bedolfe jokingly summed up Rogers statement one day
by saying, "Its not rocket science that we should not build this
plant, if you think it is the undersigned are rocket scientists". On
July 15, 1999, a full page article containing an official statement
signed by 34 of these scientists (including eight Nobel prize
winners, two National Medal of Science winners and ten MacArthur
Fellows) was published in the New York and LA Times.
On March 3, 2000, Dr. Payne heard the tremendous news - that our work
to protect the lagoon had succeeded. He was in Antartica at the time
upon receiving this news, he wrote:
"Such wonderful, wonderful news about San Ignacio! Now it's time to
congratulate Mitsubishi and the Mexican Government for their vision.
I got your fax on our way to the Falklands/Malvinas from South
Georgia as we were inching through dense fog towards Shag Rocks-three
stone pinnacles about 130 miles from the nearest land on the northern
edge of the Scotia Sea, arguably the stormiest stretch of ocean on
earth. The day is relatively calm, and we decided to seize the
opportunity of passing near Shag Rocks to look for right whales, a
few of which have been seen in their vicinity in recent years,
including an animal we know from Patagonia. But dense fog has stopped
us from seeing."
"When Shag Rocks finally loomed out of the mist they were dead ahead,
about two ship's lengths, black, utterly inaccessible, naked of plant
life, the sea sucking down to expose their base then rising to a
third of their height- the actualization of every sailors worst
nightmare. And then a miracle: in the midst of that terrible misty
gloom the radio operator handed me your fax with its wonderful news
about Mitsubishi abandoning its salt works plan. Everyone on the
bridge, and later throughout the ship buzzed with it; and though the
fog hasn't lifted, your news has lifted all our spirits."
"By chance I gave a lecture last night on whaling, following which a
passenger asked what I thought the chances were of Mitsubishi giving
up. I responded that in spite of the utterly one-sided nature of the
argument, that given the size and power of both parties to the salt
works plan that I felt it only marginally possible they would
concede. I believe that it must have been the very moment at which
Mitsubishi was announcing its back down. It's an important lesson -
all of us must accept the fact that reason can and often does win
out. It is strong enough, even when it's opponent is the world's
largest corporation, in concert with one of the world's major
governments. There are always people of good will in such
organizations and if we persist in trying to bring reason to the fore
we provide the environment in which such people can help their peers
come to rational decisions. In this way we can, together, change the
world. I've learned an important lesson: never underestimate the
power of reason."
Dr. Payne's statement and all of the 33 other signers whose support
helped make this happen...
AN UNACCEPTABLE RISK...
We, the undersigned, are scientists united in our concern over a
proposal to build the world's largest saltworks on the shores of
Laguna San Ignacio, in Baja California, Mexico, a lagoon designated
as a whale sanctuary by Mexico in 1976. In 1988 it was also included
within the largest international biosphere reserve in Latin America
(the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve) and in 1993 was listed by UNESCO as
a World Heritage Site. It is the last undisturbed gray whale breeding
and calving area on earth, and for that reason may be of unique
importance for the survival of that species.
As proposed by Exportadora de Sal, S.A. (ESSA), a joint venture of
Mitsubishi Corporation (49%) and the Mexican Government (51%), the
saltworks would create a massive 116 square mile industrial landscape
of evaporation ponds-larger than Laguna San Ignacio itself-a
million-ton salt stockpile, fuel and watertanks, a 1.25-mile long
pier with a shipping dock and conveyor belts running from
crystallization ponds to the pier's end, workshops, headquarters
buildings, and the facilities necessary to support 200 employees
while onsite. The upper end of Laguna San Ignacio would be invaded by
17 pumps operating 24 hours a day to draw 6,600 gallons of saltwater
per second from the lagoon into the evaporation ponds.
We believe that the industrialization of this undisturbed breeding
habitat is contrary to the principles and values that sanctuaries,
biosphere reserves, and World Heritage Sites were created to uphold.
To build major industry here, especially when it is constructed on,
extracts its water from and pumps its wastes into a UNESCO World
Heritage Site, will create a dangerous precedent-a precedent at odds
with the broad scientific consensus that life in the world's
estuaries and coastal waters is increasingly threatened by loss and
degradation of habitat through physical alteration of ecosystems and
More specifically, building the saltworks at Laguna San Ignacio will
risk introducing to the area the top three present threats to whales
besides whaling: loss of habitat, accidents involving collision with
ships, and the slow but inexorable bioaccumulation of contaminants in
the whales' bodies. A larger human population will be attracted,
crowding the whales in the lagoon with more boats, noise and waste.
Large ocean going vessels will be introduced to the region. Large
quantities of toxic contaminants, such as oil, diesel fuel and
concentrated brine wastes will be present. The brine wastes contain
toxic concentration of magnesium sulfate, potassium chloride,
bromine, iodine, and boron, which, as proposed by ESSA, will be
dumped into the adjacent Bahia de las Ballenas-Bay of the Whales.
The Vizcaino Reserve contains critical habitat for both terrestrial
and marine species, including a highly endangered pronghorn antelope.
These species would also be impacted by the saltworks project.
According to Mexico's Federal Attorney General for Environmental
Protection, a study ordered by his agency showed that a die-off in
December 1997 of 94 endangered black sea turtles (Chelonia aggasiz)
was possible caused by brine waste contamination from an existing
ESSA saltworks at nearby Laguna Ojo de Liebre. In the course of its
scientific investigation, the agency also observed a fish kill caused
by a spill of over four million gallons of brine waste from this same
ESSA plant in May 1998.
There may be important regional impacts as well. The flooding of 116
square miles of coastal tidal flats and mangroves would certainly
disturb the existing habitat of terrestrial species, altering tidal
and runoff patterns and potentially affecting migratory birds.
Because there is no way to extract the quantities of sea water
needed, without extracting fish fingerlings along with it, pumping
some 6,600 gallons per second from the lagoon could adversely affect
fisheries in the region. Finally, increased human population is
inevitably accompanied by increased poaching of wildlife.
For these and other reasons, we believe that ESSA's proposed
saltworks would pose an unacceptable risk to significant biological
resources in and around Laguna San Ignacio. We respectfully urge
Mitsubishi to abandon the project and trust the Mexican government
will stand by its original decision denying ESSA permission to
construct a saltworks at Laguna San Ignacio.
1. Roger Payne (Drafter), Founder/President, Ocean Alliance;
MacArthur Fellow; Lyndhurst Prize Fellow; United Nations Environment
Programme Global 500 Laureate; Knighted by Netherlands: Order of the
2. Philip Anderson, Professor, Princeton University; Nobel Prize
(Physics); National Medal of Science; Dannie Heineman Prize; Bardeen
Prize; Foreign Member, Japan Academy; Foreign Member, Royal Society
3. George Archibald, Founder/Director, International Crane
Foundation; MacArthur Fellow; United Nations Environment Programme
Global 500 Laureate; World Wildlife Fund Gold Medal; Knighted by
Netherlands: Order of the Golden Ark.
4. David Baltimore, President, California Institute of Technology;
Nobel Prize (Medicine); Member, National Academy of Sciences; Former
President, Rockefeller University; Foreign Member, Royal Society of
London; Honorary Member, Japanese Biochemical Society.
5. Lester Brown, Founder, President, and Senior Researcher, World
Watch Institute; MacArthur Fellow; United Nations Environment Prize;
United Nations Environment Programme Environmental Leadership Medal;
Gold Medal - Pro Habitabili Award, King of Sweden; Blue Planet Prize,
Asahi Glass Foundation.
6. Richard Dawkins, Professor, New College, Oxford University;
Nakayama Prize for Human Science; Royal Society of London Michael
Faraday Award; Medal of the Zoological Society of London.
7. Irven De Vore, Professor, Harvard University; Lifetime Achievement
Award, Institute of Human Origins; Former President, Anthropology
Section, American Association for the Advancement of Science.
8. Jared Diamond, Professor, University of California, Los Angeles
School of Medicine; MacArthur Fellow; Pulitzer Prize; Cosmos Prize
(Japan); Coues Award, American Ornithologists' Union; Burr Award,
National Geographic Society; Member, National Academy of Sciences.
9. Rene Drucker-Colin, Chair, Department of Physiology, School of
Medicine, Autonomous National Univ. of Mexico (UNAM); Vice-President
and President-Elect, Mexican Academy of Sciences; National Sciences
Prize; Guggenheim Fellow; Mexican Fndtn. For Health Prize; National
Prize for Sciences and Arts (Mexico).
10. Sylvia Earle, former Chief Scientist, U.S. NOAA; National
Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence; President, National Marine
Sanctuaries Fndtn.; Knighted by Netherlands: Order of the Golden Ark;
Olguin Marine Environment Award; Stratton Leadership Award.
11. Paul Ehrlich, Professor, Stanford University; Crafoord Prize
(Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences); MacArthur Fellow; Tyler Prize
for Environmental Achievement; United Nations Environment Programme
Sasakawa Environment Prize; Volvo Environment Prize; Heinz Award for
the Environment; Member, National Academy of Sciences.
12. Thomas Eisner, Professor, Cornell University; National Medal of
Science; Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement; Guggenheim
Fellow; Centennial Medal, Harvard University; Member, National
Academy of Sciences; Foreign Member, Royal Society of London.
13. Murray Gell-Mann, Professor and Co-Chair, Santa Fe Institute;
Nobel Prize (Physics); Member, President's Committee of Advisors on
Science and Technology; John J. Carty Medallist, National Academy of
Sciences; United Nations Environment Programme Global 500 Laureate;
Foreign Member, Royal Society of London.
14. Arturo Gomez Pompa, Distinguished Professor of Botany, University
of California, Riverside; Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement;
Guggenheim Fellow; Knighted by Netherlands: Order of the Golden Ark;
Herrera Medal (Mexico); Advisor to President of Mexico on tropical
15. Stephen Jay Gould, Professor and Museum Curator, Harvard
University; MacArthur Fellow; President, Society for Study of
Evolution; Former President, Paleontological Society; Member,
National Academy of Sciences; Medal of the Zoological Society of
London; Gold Medal for Service to Zoology, Linnaean Society of London.
16. Donald Griffen, Professor, Harvard University; Professor,
Rockefeller University; Former President, Frank Guggenheim
Foundation; Eliot Medal, National Academy of Science; Member,
National Academy of Science.
17. Roger Guillemin, Distinguished Professor, the Salk Institute;
Nobel Prize (Medicine and Physiology); National Medal of Science
(USA); Laskel Foundation Award; Member, National Academy of Sciences
(USA); Honorary Member, Japan Biochemical Society.
18. Sidney Holt, Founder/CEO, International League for Protection of
Cetacenas; Marine biologist and environmental consultant; United
Nations Environmental Programme Global 500 Laureate; Knighted by
Netherlands: Order of the Golden Ark; World Wildlife Fund Gold Medal.
19. Sir Andrew Huxley, Professor, Trinity College, Cambridge; Nobel
Prize (Medicine); Member, Royal Society of London; Copley Medal:
Order of Merit (United Kingdom); Grand Cordon of the Sacred Treasure
20. Brian Josephson, Professor, Cavendish Lab, Cambridge University;
Nobel Prize (Physics); Hughes Medal; Faraday Medal; Holweck Medal.
21. Donald Kennedy, Former President and currently Bing Professor of
Environmental Science, Stanford University; Former Commissioner, U.S.
Food and Drug Administration; Member, National Academy of Sciences.
22. Sir Aaron Klug, President, Royal Society; Nobel Prize
(Chemistry); Honorary Fellow of Peterhouse and of Trinity College;
Former Director, Medical Research Council, Laboratory of Molecular
Biology, Cambridge; Former Director of Studies in Natural Sciences,
23. Masakazu Konishi, Professor, California Institute of Technology;
International Prize for Biology, Japan Society for the Promotion of
Science; Dana Award for Achievement in Health; Member, National
Academy of Sciences.
24. Donella Meadows, Former Director, Sustainability Institute and
Professor of Environmental Studies, Dartmouth College; MacArthur
Fellow; Pew Scholar; Co-Author, Club of Rome Report, "Limits to
Growth" and "Beyond the Limits".
25. Mario Molina, Institute Professor, Mass. Inst. Of Technology;
Nobel Prize (Chemistry); Member, President's Committee of Advisors in
Science and Technology; Member, Secretary of Energy Advisory Board;
Member, National Academy of Sciences; Board Member, US-Mexico
Foundation of Science.
26. Giuseppe Notarbartolo de Sciara, President, Istituto per la
Ricerca Scientifica e Tecnologica Applicata al Mare (ICRAM); Former
Director, European Cetacean Society; Tridente d'Oro Prize.
27. Fernamdo Nottebohm, Distinguished Professor, Rockefeller
University; Director, Rockefeller Field Research Center for Ethology
and Ecology; Dana Award for Achievement in Health; Pattison Award for
Distinguished Research in Neurosciences; Coue's Award, American
28. Peter Raven, Director, Missouri Botanical Gardens; Engelmann
Professor, Washington University; MacArthur Fellow; Tyler Prize for
Environmental Achievement; Volvo Environment Prize; Unite Nations
Environment Programme Sasakawa Environment Prize.
29. Jorge Reynolds Pombo, Electrical and Bio-Engineer (including
pioneer of pacemaker and whale electrocardiograms); Director, Grupo
Whales Heart Satellite Tracking; Member, 34 Colombia and
international scientific societies; Miembro Asociado por Invitacion
Sociedad Mexicano de Cardiologica; La Orden de Boyaca, Grado Gran
Official; Silver Medal of Scientific Merit, United Kingdom.
30. John Terborgh, Director, Duke University Center for Tropical
Conservation; Founder, Matin Tropical Research Station, Manu, Peru;
MacArthur Fellow; Guggenheim Fellow; Pew Fellow; Member, National
Academy of Sciences; Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal, National Academy of
31. James Watson, Director, Cold Spring Harbor Lab; Nobel Prize
(Medicine)l Presidential Medal of Freedom; Member, National Academy
of Sciences; Member, Royal Society of London; Copley Medal, Royal
32. Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor, Harvard
University; Crafoord Prize (Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences);
National Medal of Science; International Prize for Biology
(Government of Japan); Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement;
Pulitzer Prize (twice); Benjamin Franklin Medal of the American
33. George Woodwell, Director, Woods Hole Research Center;
Founder/Director, Ecosystems Center of the Marine Biological
Laboratory; Heinz Award for the Environment; Member, National Academy
of Science; Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Science; Former
Chairman, World Wildlife Fund - U.S.
34. Richard Wrangham, Professor, Harvard University; MacArthur
Fellow; Rivers Medal, Royal Anthropological Institute; Board Member
and Former President, Dolphins of Shark Bay Research Foundation;
Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
-- Kim Marshall-Tilas Senior Director Ocean Alliance/Whale Conservation Institute 191 Weston Road, Lincoln, MA 01773 781.259.0423 or fax 259.0288 www.oceanalliance.org
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