The Sea of Cortes, also known as the ‘Gulf of California’, is amazing in so many different ways. From the abundance of sea life to the clarity of the waters, the Sea of Cortes is host to amazing fishing, scuba diving, beautiful views, and more. Legendary diver Jacques Cousteau once described the Sea of Cortes as the “world’s aquarium” and the “Galapagos of North America”.
The Sea of Cortes currently plays an important role in one of the most interesting ecospheres in the world, and with everything that is happening in the region, it stands to play an amazingly pivotal role in what happens to the area next. There is so much one could say about the Sea Of Cortes, so I’m just going to start off of the top of my head and go from there.
As you can see from the map – the Sea of Cortes is bordered by the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora, and Sinaloa. To the north it is part of the desolate Sonoran landscape, and creates amazing ares where open desert suddenly spills into a beautiful, sparkling coastline. Further down south it laps up against more popular – and populated – places like bahia Concepcion, La Paz, San Carlos, and San Jose del Cabo.
Traditionally the Sea of Cortes has been a commercial fishing zone. With the growth of tourism in the last 20 years (more about this below) attentions have been turned toward sport fishing and boating, scuba diving, and the like.
In 2005, hundreds of islands in Mexico’s Sea of Cortes were declared World Heritage Fund sites by United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization. They are home to major whale breeding grounds, and the designation opens up the ability for Mexico to seek funding from the international responsibility to help preseve the area.
The Sea of Cortes is host to a number of interesting and unique little sea critters such as the Flying Mobula and the vaquita marina, the latter of which has been called “the world’s rarest, most endangered porpoise“.
What’s in the Sea of Cortes’s future? There’s the Mexican government’s La Escalera Nautica/Sea of Cortez Project, which seeks to draw more and more pleasure boaters and fishermen to the area. There’s a boom in construction all up and down the coasts. There’s the World Heritage Fund site status. There is ecotourism and environmental worries about what is going to happen to the area.
In other words, the future’s going to be busy on the Sea of Cortes.
The first thing a lot of people think of when they hear ‘The Sea of Cortez’ is the John Steinbeck novel. “The Log from the Sea of Cortez” is John Steinbeck’s tale of a 1940’s expedition there to collect and catalog marine life. In it, he “recounts the day to day events of the collecting trip; encounters with local people at sea and ashore, negotiations with customs officials” (Here’s a review).
I’ll confess a horrible secret – I bought this book, I have this book, but I have not read this book. I’m really not a big Steinbeck guy – I’m more of a Kerouac guy. If you read this and want to send me your review, I’ll post it here, because I’ve got a stack of other stuff in line before I get to this one…
There’s also a great audio interview at thestory.org with Rafe Sagarin, one of the researchers who participated in this journey, that American Public Media put together in Feb. of 2007.
The interview is an absolutely fascintating look at both the Sea Of Cortez and the methodologies employed the modern researchers to use Steinbeck’s data from so long ago.
The audio is found here: Riding The Sea of Cortez