- MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Fifty gray whales have died along Mexico's coast
this year during the breeding season, the most ever recorded, ecologists
- "It is the highest number we have
had," said Homero Aridjis, whose "Group of 100" cited figures
from the Regional Center for Fishing Investigation in Baja California Sur
- Aridjis, poet and president of the environmental
group, told Reuters that they were demanding a government investigation
into why the death toll among gray whales has been steadily increasing
in recent weeks.
- The figure of 50 dead is higher than
any government tally, although Aridjis said Mexico's government failed
to publish annual mortality figures in any systematic way.
- The whales migrate some 6,200 miles from
the icy Bering Sea to a handful of warm water lagoons off the Baja California
peninsula in northwestern Mexico where they breed and give birth.
- On Friday the Group of 100, which was
founded in 1985 and includes luminaries like writers Gabriel Garcia Marquez
and Carlos Fuentes, quoted the fishing research center as saying that 21
of the dead whales perished in two lagoons where a Japanese-Mexican saltworks
- Another 10 whales died further south,
at Magdalena Bay, and three in the pristine San Ignacio Lagoon, where more
than half the whale calves are born, the Group of 100 said in a statement.
- Sixteen more died in two areas along
the state's Pacific Coast.
- Officials in Mexico have so far given
no conclusive explanation for the deaths. A lack of consistent records
has hurt efforts to assess how far the mortality rate is above normal.
- The Group of 100 said it feared negligence
at the ESSA saltworks, which is 49 percent owned by Mitsubishi Corp. and
51 percent owned by the Mexican government.
- Environmentalists also have blamed the
company for significant die-offs of endangered sea turtles, but the company
has consistently said it was harmless to wildlife and had been unfairly
- "We are demanding an immediate investigation
at the ESSA installations to establish whether the cause of death of the
21 whales was due to environmental negligence," the Group of 100 said.
- Over the past weeks officials have proposed
a number of reasons for the deaths. They include natural causes, a lack
of food, bacteria and drug traffickers' use of Natural Killer 19 (NK-19),
a fluorescent chemical containing deadly cyanide used to flag spots in
the sea for aircraft to drop drug cargoes.
- "We're asking for the results of
the autopsies, and for the results to be made public," Aridjis said.