Known by many different names, the Sea of Cortez separates the Baja California Peninsula from the mainland of Mexico. The Sea is known as the Gulf of California as well as the Mar de Cortes, the Mar Bermejo, or the Gulfo de California. While there are many different names, they all refer to this same body of water. When you look at just about any modern map the Sea of Cortez is usually listed as the Gulf of California.
The Sea of Cortez has been a body of water for about 5.3 million years ago, and the result was a redirection of the Colorado River. There are many rivers that flow into the sea including the Mayo, Fuerte, Sinaloa, Sonora, and the Yaqui.
The Sea of Cortez was something that started occurring more than 12 million years ago. While the actual Sea of Cortez wasn’t in existence 12 million years ago, it was during this time that the North American Plate shifted, laying the foundation. The sea could have extended as far down as Indio, California, but a huge delta was created by the Colorado River, which effectively blocks the sea from flooding both the Imperial Valley and the Mexicali Valley. Throughout the Sea of Cortez there is volcanism, for instance, with Isla of Tortuga where there is still volcanic activity occurring today.
While the Sea of Cortez is actually quite narrow it is home to a very extensive ecosystem. Many different creatures migrate to the sea each year. Some of the sea life that can be found are the humpback whale, California gray whale, manta ray, and the leatherback sea turtle.
The Sea of Cortez is also known for its commercial fishery offerings. In fact, there have been some commercial fisherman who have reported schools of tuna that have spanned more than 100 miles. Unlike a lot of waters where there are commercial fisheries, the Sea of Cortez appears to be stable, offering the ability for more fisheries to open up. While the wildlife appears to be stable there have been some changes, such as a reduction in flow from the Colorado River, which will eventually have a negative impact on fisheries.
The Sea of Cortez has more than 900 islands, with some of them being a bit bigger. Two of the larger islands are the Isla Angel de la Guarda and the Tiburon Island. It is around these islands that many different species of wildlife can be found. The islands are also the nesting grounds for many different marine mammals and seabirds. The Cortez waters are where many different species breed, feed, and nurse their young. Two of the leading markets are sardines and anchovies. While currently stable, there is some concern that the sea will eventually have problems in addition to some pollution including over fishing as well as bottom trolling, which damages shellfish and the basin.