A last-ditch effort to save the endangered vaquita porpoise is underway. Once considered a farfetched and highly controversial scheme to rescue the world’s most endangered marine mammal, the plan was put into action last week, as a result of the dramatic decline in the vaquita population from 60 to approximately 30 in the last year. Read on for Vaquita Countdown!
Meet, Andrea, Fathom, Katrina and Splash!
They are four U.S. Navy dolphins that just arrived at a base in Mexico’s Gulf of California (the Sea of Cortez). The dolphins (trained by the US Navy to locate underwater mines) will use their natural sonar to locate the extremely shy vaquitas. The dolphins are all females and have been selected to take part in this operation because of their gentle natures. Read updates in the Washington Post and the Mexico Daily News.
Once the Vaquitas are located scientists will collect them and bring them into a floating sanctuary, where it is hoped they will breed and grow their numbers to a point where they will no longer be endangered. At that point they can be reintroduced into the wild.
Using Marine Mammals to Rescue Marine Mammals!
This high-risk plan was the only option left to the Mexican government and the International Groups that for several years have been attempting to stem the decline in Vaquita numbers.
Vaquitas have been brought to this point because the world’s smallest porpoise is often a victim of bycatch in the gill nets used to catch another endangered species the Totoaba, a fish whose dried bladder commands huge prices on the international black market as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine.
Last year the Mexican government enacted a permanent ban on gillnet fishing in Vaquita waters, however the high prices received for Totoaba body parts have enticed local fishermen to continue the illegal fishing even at the risk of having their boats confiscated. (photo – savethewhales.org)
Can It Work??
There are many unknowns however in the rescue plan, one is that Vaquitas have never-before been captured alive and consequently it is unknown if they will breed in captivity. The alternative, however, is to watch as the Vaquita swiftly goes extinct.
“We support this last-ditch effort to save the vaquita from extinction, but it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to allow fishing to continue in its habitat,” Alex Olivera, from the Center for Biological Diversity. “These beautiful animals deserve to live free in the Gulf of California, but that will never happen until the Mexican government eliminates the illegal gillnet fishing that has driven these porpoises to the very brink of extinction.”
Sea Shepherd Finds Dead Vaquita
By Bob Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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