In March 2000, Mitsubishi canceled its plans for a giant salt factory at Laguna San Ignacio, the world's last untouched breeding ground for Pacific gray whales. Read on to find out how NRDC, our local allies and more than one million concerned citizens saved this BioGem.
In 1994, Mitsubishi announced plans to build the world's largest saltworks on the fragile shores of Laguna San Ignacio, in Mexico's Baja California. Every year, the whales swim thousands of miles to return to this emerald lagoon's sheltered waters to give birth and nurse their calves in tranquility. Mitsubishi's complex would have covered 116 square miles along the shore - that's more than twice the size of San Francisco -- introducing tankers, giant diesel turbines, the risk of toxic spills and round-the-clock industrial activity.
In 1995, one of Mexico's leading environmental groups, el Grupo de los Cien (the Group of 100), asked NRDC for help with its efforts to stop the salt factory. Over the next five years, NRDC's Save the Gray Whale Nursery campaign generated more than a million letters of protest to Mitsubishi. NRDC, our partners and citizens from around the world also persuaded the U.N. World Heritage Committee to review Mitsubishi's plans; the committee voted in defense of the whale nursery. And a group of world-renowned scientists, including nine Nobel laureates, signed on to the campaign by urging Mitsubishi to scrap the saltworks.
Then, in late 1999, NRDC and the International Fund for Animal Welfare increased consumer pressure on Mitsubishi by waging a nationwide boycott: the MITSUBISHI. DON'T BUY IT! campaign. Besides individuals' pledges to forgo purchasing Mitsubishi products, more than 40 cities and counties in California -- the company's biggest U.S. market -- passed resolutions opposing the company's actions and threatened to cancel Mitsubishi contracts.Mitsubishi had never before withdrawn an industrial project under environmental pressure, but the worldwide protest campaign had become a public relations disaster. On March 2, 2000, Mitsubishi and the Mexican government abandoned their plan for the saltworks.
The victory at San Ignacio, a shining moment in biodiversity conservation, proved that citizens worldwide, working together, can compel even the largest corporations to respect nature.