Gulf of Mexico
Migratory Pathways in the Gulf of Mexico
Whooping Crane © Beth Zaiken / The Nature Conservancy
Understanding the migratory pathways of fish, sea turtles, marine mammals, and birds is critical not only to species survival, but also to the overall health of the Gulf of Mexico Large Marine Ecosystem.
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In this report, The Nature Conservancy synthesized information about the pathways of a variety of migratory species in the Gulf of Mexico Large Marine Ecosystem. Our goal is to increase understanding of the migratory strategies and corridors of representative migratory fish, sea turtle, marine mammal, and bird species in the Gulf. Our hope is that information presented in this study will inform and motivate government decision-makers to support further research on migratory pathways in the Gulf and to enact measures for conservation of those pathways to enable the survival of individual species and the protection of the overall health of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem.
View a slideshow of species that were mapped in this report
The Gulf of Mexico is one of the most important – yet vastly unprotected – migration corridors on earth. This report reveals previously undiscovered migratory highways, or “blueways” used by marine species in the Gulf of Mexico.
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Among the report’s key findings:
There are four particularly significant migratory blueways:
- Confluence of the Mississippi River and the Gulf
- South Florida and the Florida Strait
- The northern area of the Yucatan Peninsula
- Northwestern Cuba
Blueways in the Gulf are vastly unprotected:
- More than 99 percent of the aquatic corridors and more than 80 percent of bird stopovers identified in the report lack any type of environmental protection. These areas are managed by the three countries that surround the Gulf: The United States, Mexico and Cuba.
Gulf species are constantly on the move:
- The report indicates that aquatic species, like birds, have extremely varied migration patterns. Fish migrate throughout the year, sea turtles primarily migrate in late spring and summer and marine mammals migrate primarily during the winter. This differs from bird species, which regularly migrate during the spring and fall.