Here’s the latest update on the Vaquita Rescue, the last-ditch, multinational effort to save the endangered and extremely elusive vaquita porpoises from extinction.
As Blue Ocean reported in Vaquita Countdown, on a controversial plan to save the last remaining vaquitas by tracking, catching and relocating the porpoises to protected sanctuaries where there numbers will hopefully recover. The tracking part was the most controversial because it involved using trained, U.S. Navy dolphins, using their innate sonar to locate the vaquitas thereby allowing scientists to capture the animals. (photo – VaquitaCPR)
Vaquita Rescue Scheme Is Successful!
The feasibility of the scheme was totally unproven, nothing like this had ever been attempted before but because the number of Vaquitas, the world’s most endangered marine mammal, had dropped to approximately 30 individuals, experts were running out of time. Now Mongabay.com reports that in mid-October the team leading the effort in the Upper Gulf Of California, actually rescued a 6-month-old vaquita calf using underwater acoustic monitoring.
“The successful rescue made conservation history and demonstrates that the goal of VaquitaCPR is feasible,” said Rafael Pacchiano, Mexico’s minister of the environment. “No one has ever captured and cared for a vaquita porpoise, even for a brief period of time.”
Catch and Release!
Unfortunately, although they had relocated the vaquita calf to a sea pen the scientists ascertained that it was stressed and rather than risk complications made the decision to release the calf back into the sea.
“While we were disappointed we could not keep the vaquita in human care, we have demonstrated that we are able to locate and capture a vaquita,” said Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, head of VaquitaCPR.
VaquitaCPR, (Vaquita Conservation, Protection and Recovery) is a Mexican initiative aiming to find and relocate the porpoises into specially constructed, floating, sea pens, where the porpoises can be sheltered and allowed to breed. Once the vaquita population recovers they can be released back into the wild. (photo – VaquitaCPR)
Navy Dolphins Find Dangerous Gil Nets!
Although there was no word on if the U.S. Navy dolphins were involved in finding the vaquita calf, they have been used to locate ghost and illicit fishing nets (the main culprit in the demise of the vaquita population). VaquitaCPR stated that the dolphins working with a boat from the La Paz Whale Museum have removed 274,320 meters (900,000 feet) of dangerous gil nets from vaquita waters.
Pacchiano said he is hopeful and the project to locate and transport a vaquita for the first time in history has been validated. “I am confident we can indeed save the vaquita from extinction.”
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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