The critically, endangered Vaquita has been recognized by the international community by setting aside July 8, 2017 as the first and hopefully not last International Save the Vaquita Day. Considered to be the world’s most endangered marine mammal with as few as 30 individuals left, Vaquita numbers continue to decline precipitously, at about 50% annually.
Blue Ocean has followed the sorry history of the vaquita as its numbers shrink and its plight escalates. Often called the “Panda of Mexico” the Vaquita swims the waters of the upper Gulf of California, where it is vulnerable to being caught in the gil nets used by the local fishing industry. See our post: Vaquita Nears Extinction, Can They be Saved? (photo – savethewhales.org)
A Victim of Illegal Fishing
Two years ago the Mexican government banned the use of gil nets in this area. However, they continue to be used illegally, to catch Totoaba, a fish prized for its swim bladder, that when dried are used in traditional Chinese medicine. (why do so many of our stories end up in China?) The Totoaba is also over-fished and endangered but its high value remains an incentive for illegal poaching, and the vaquita becomes an innocent victim of bycatch.
The international community and Mexican government rallied to the Vaquita cause but have been stymied by push-back from the fishing industry. A situation that resulted in the burning of patrol boats and threats to Green Peace and other foreign organizations. See our post Vaquita Violence, Fishermen Sabotage Efforts.
DiCaprio and Slim join in effort
This month, Mexico’s president announced an alliance between Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim and American environmentalist and actor Leonardo deCaprio to join in a last ditch effort to protect the Vaquita.
“Mexico understands its responsibility as one of the countries with greatest biodiversity,” said Pena Nieto at the meeting in Mexico City with Slim and DeCaprio. The agreement confirms that Mexico will increase its enforcement of the gil net ban and prohibit nightime fishing (when much of the illegal fishing occurs). Ultimately success will depend on winning the support of thousands of fishermen by introducing vaquita-safe fishing methods that enable fishermen to maintain their livelihood. See the entire article in the San Diego Union Tribune.
Breaking News: Dolphins to Herd Endangered Vaquitas to Safety
Mexico announced its collaboration with the U.S. Navy to use specially trained dolphins to herd the endangered vaquita porpoises into a marine refuge for protection from the dangers that have reduced their numbers. See Smithsonian’s update on this project plus our Blue Ocean post: What does the US Navy, Dolphins and Vaquitas Have in Common.
Join with the World Wild Life Fund
and sign their petition addressed to Mexico’s President Pena Nieto, urging development of a comprehensive Vaquita recovery plan and the wider protection of all marine life in the waters of the Gulf of California. (photo – vaquitamarina)
View Viva Vaquita’s Save the Vaquita Day Events
Viva Vaquita provides a list of awareness raising events occurring from Washington DC to Hawaii, Hong Kong and Mexico.
by Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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