Thursday, May 31, 2007 – Day Four
While on our way to Isla San Marcos in the morning we were quickly greeted by a small group—50 or so—of Long-beaked Common Dolphins and a large group of Short-finned Pilot Whales, about 30 of them. Everything is relative. Common dolphins sometimes travel is schools of hundreds, pilot whales usually in much smaller groups. The pilot whale group included numerous babies, adult females, and adult males.
The males are larger, with bigger, thicker dorsal fins.
What I’ve been finding interesting is how full of life the Gulf still is. It’s true that the Gulf of California is badly overfished. The giant groupers are a thing of the past, the Totoaba, a huge fish of the upper Gulf, remains at low numbers, shrimp are depleted, and the world’s smallest porpoise, the little Vaquita of the upper Gulf, is also the world’s most endangered cetacean (since China’s Yangtze River Dolphin was recently declared extinct). The upper Gulf’s woes are due both to overfishing and the fact that the U.S. takes all the water out of the Colorado River before it reaches Mexico, which has had devastating consequences for the estuary-adapted creatures at the head of the Gulf. Yet what is not affected by greedy water management and overfishing remains quite viable. Humboldt Squid have increased in recent years, possibly due to reduction of their fish predators. Seabirds remain abundant, as do many marine mammals. While I would bet that all the marine creatures were much more numerous 200 years ago, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at—and delighted by—how much we are seeing.
At the island we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon of snorkeling, seeing lots of small fishes including lovely Cortez and King Angelfishes, Sergeant Majors, small stingrays, damselfishes, and a variety of others. Patricia and I also walked into the desert—quite a contrast—and I was amazed to see a small nesting colony of Great Blue Herons amid thorns, rocks, and cacti. Dinner was an idyllic beach barbecue featuring full-moonrise out of the sea. Most of the day today felt like pure guilty pleasure, and Patricia, Alexandra, and I all expressed concern that we were feeling spoiled and might have difficulty re-assimilating into society.