Will 2017 be the last Year for the Vaquita?
Called the “Panda of the Sea” the endangered Vaquita is the World’s smallest porpoise and it’s most vulnerable species. With their population now estimated to possibly as low as 30 individuals, 2017 could see the the disappearance of this shy, charismatic, ocean mammal that only lives in the northern waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Despite enormous efforts from the Mexican Government and International groups the Vaquita numbers have continued to decline. The culprits are the gill nets used by local fishermen to capture the totoaba, a large fish (also endangered) that is caught for its swim bladder, which when dried and sold to smugglers is destined for China’s Black Market. (photo – shows Totoaba, top and Vaquita below – World Wide Fund for Nature)
Vaguita: Collateral Damage?
Ensnared In Gill Nets
Although gill nets were banned in 2015 they continue to ensnare vaquitas, either being used illegally or as abandoned “ghost” nets. The Mexican Navy patrols the Sea of Cortez and aerial drones with high resolution cameras are employed to spot illegal fishing. Over 100 abandoned fishing nets have been removed, eliminating another obstacle to Vaquita survival. (photo – NOAA Fisheries)
Read more in the Japantimes: Mexico scrambles to save world’s smallest porpoise
Breaking News: the World Wildlife Fund called for a complete ban on fishing in the Vaquita habitat in the upper Gulf of California, noting that an international committee of experts has determined that fewer than 30 Vaquitas remain. Read more in the Naples Herald. Plus see our recent post on a Girl’s Science Club project to solve the problem of marine by-catch, see: SOS: Girls’ Science Club Seeks Feedback, Insight from Marine Experts
International Plan to Relocate Endangered Vaquitas
The International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita, CIRVA, has recommended an emergency plan to capture and relocate endangered Vaquitas to a protected sanctuary. This spring the Mexican government supported by an international group of the “best veterinarians and biologists in the world,” are set to begin capture operations of the elusive marine mammals. (photo – Greenpeace)
“we expect that most vaquitas will remain in the wild as capturing even a few will be very difficult,” says Dr. Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, head of CIRVA. “Having some is still better than having none. The decline is happening faster than solutions for illegal fishing, so we need to have multiple strategies.”
“Experts from around the world have come together and are working to save the endangered vaquita in much the same way conservationists rescued the California condor from extinction in the 1980s,” said Dr. Sam Ridgway, President of the National Marine Mammal Foundation. “We recognize that the odds are stacked against us, but the conservation and scientific communities feel a duty to act and we hope our collective expertise can make a difference.”
Saving the Vaquita Illustrates the Complexity of Endangered Species Preservation
“The efforts to conserve and protect the endangered vaquita are not getting the results we expected,” Aburto-Oropeza argues that quick fix solutions are not sufficient and to create a lasting impact, three components need to be considered. The species itself, the ecosystem in which it lives and the livelihood of the effected human population. In the case of the Vaquita this third component is essential – resolving disputes that pit the economic interests of local fishermen against the long-term welfare of marine creatures. Read more in the Scripps Institute of Oceanography Article: Research Highlight: Vaquita Illustrate the Complicated Landscape of Endangered Species Preservation (photo – Motherboard)
How To Get More Ocean-Hearted Intel Delivered To Your Inbox!
We believe ocean lovers can change the world. If you care about the health of the ocean and want to do something about it, then connect with the Blue Ocean tribe: Our growing community of ocean change-makers is turning ocean lovers into ocean leaders. It starts with you. Join us!
See Related Blue Ocean Posts and Articles:
see Blue Ocean post: Injured Dolphin Knows Where to go for Help
see Blue Ocean post: Traditional Fishing Communities: A Necessary part of the Discussion
see blue Ocean post: What does the US Navy, Dolphins and Vaquitas Have in Common
Read more in: Will 2017 Be the Year We Lose the World’s Smallest Porpoise? in Motherboard
Environmental Investigation Agency reports: Illegal trade is still pushing the vaquita to extinction
Viva Vaquita news and updates: FINAL POSITION STATEMENT OF ¡VIVA Vaquita!
Wild lens reports: A Captive Breeding Program for the Vaquita
EcoWatch states: Gill Nets Push Species to the Brink of Extinctio
In Marine Insight read: 10 Endangered Ocean Species and Marine Animals
Science reports: World’s most endangered marine mammal down to 30 individuals
In New Scientist: World’s most endangered marine mammal has 30 individuals left
Business Insider Nordic states: The most endangered marine mammal on the planet is also the smallest of its kind — and there are just 30 left