In a last ditch effort to save the endanger Vaquita, the world’s most endangered marine mammal, China, Mexico and the U.S. met in Ensenada, Mexico this week to discuss how to stop the illegal Totoaba trade.


vaquita endangered marine species gillnet Christian Faesi Omar Vidal

Let’s explain all of that.  The Vaquita is a small porpoise living and dying in the Upper Gulf of California. It is believed that there are only thirty adults remaining. The Totoaba is an endangered fish also living and dying in the same area of the Gulf of California. There is a highly lucrative, illegal, trade on the Chinese black market for the swim bladder of the Totoaba. Theoretically the swim bladder heals all things according to Chinese traditional medicine and is highly prized, right into extinction. (photo – Christian Faesi Omar Vidal)


Vaquita, Totoaba and Gillnets

The connection between the Vaquita and the Totoaba are the gill nets that are used to catch the Totoaba, also catch the Vaquita.

Although the gillnet has been permanently banned by the Mexican government for use in Vaquita waters, the payoff for Totoaba swim bladders is so outrageously high that poor, local fishermen are willing to risk arrest and confiscation of their boats. (photo – confiscated illegally caught Totoaba on-board Sea Shepherd Vessel)


“Aquatic Cocaine”

Called “aquatic cocaine” swim bladders found recently in a Chinese market were priced at $20,000 per kilo.


Closing Off the Illegal Black Market Pipeline

dried totoaba swim bladders in chinese herbal medicine market anthony wallace aft-getty, vaquitaConsequently, pressure must be applied at the consumer end of the blackmarket pipeline to eliminate demand for the illegal product. This is where the trilateral meeting between Mexico, China and the U.S. is so important.

The meeting follows on to CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species recently held in Johannesburg where the three countries pledged to coordinate efforts to combat the illegal Totoaba trade. (photo – Anthony Wallace, AFP)


Cross-border collaboration is essential!

“Cross-border collaboration is essential to tackle a challenge at the scale of global wildlife crime,” said Dr. Margaret Kinnaird, of the WWF. “Political will has long been a bottleneck in international efforts to crack down on illegal totoaba trade and the trilateral meeting marks a crucial moment that can mobilize the high-level policy efforts and collective determination needed to dismantle criminal syndicates and save the vaquita.”

By Bob Frerck, Blue Ocean Network


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