Recently we reported on the perilous state of the Vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise and most endangered marine mammal. Concentrated in the upper Sea of Cortez between Baja California and mainland Mexico, experts believe that there are no more than thirty individuals remaining. (photo – vaquita marina)
Gill Net By-Catch
The problem is the gill net that local fishers use to catch the Totoaba (another endangered species.) The vaquita are swept up as gill net by-catch. The Vaquita’s plight has galvanized the Mexican Government and International organizations in a last-ditch attempt to save the Vaquita.
In 2015 gill nets were banned, and fishing boats that used the nets illegally were impounded. The World Wildlife Fund has even called for a total fishing ban in Vaquita habitat. (photo – SaveTheVaquita.org)
How Resentment Became Vaquita Violence
These actions, although necessary have led to resentment by the local fishermen that has now turned violent. As reported by El Universal, rioting fishers from the town of Gulfo de Santa Clara stole an impounded fishing boat, burned 15 vehicles, damaged government offices and set fire to the boats of the Federal Office of Environmental Protection. 28 officers and employees were assaulted and injured. (photo – Alehandro Robles/Live Science)
At the heart of the fishermen’s anger is a delay in receiving a government permit to fish corvina. New regulations require the approval of an environmental impact statement before fishing can commence. According to the federal agency the fisher’s collective was late in filing the required forms, just several days before the corvina season began.
The desperate fishermen have experienced a perfect storm of set-backs that may be linked to climate change. For two seasons, the shrimp harvest was closed. And there was a precautionary ban on the fishing of oysters and clams due to a red tide.
The Totoaba Is Also Endangered
Not to be overlooked is that vaquitas are caught in nets intended to catch totoaba, a fish approximately the same size as vaquita and also seriously endangered. The totoaba is highly prized for its swim bladder that is sold on the black market in China and Hong Kong for highly questionable, medicinal purposes, where it can get $20,000 per kilo.
Sea Shepherd just reported that it had discovered 66 dead Totoaba, illegally caught in a single net. “We never found as many dead totoaba in one net,” Two Sea Shepherd anti-poaching ships have been patrolling the Sea of Cortez as part of the international effort to save the vaquitas. (photo – Sea Shepherd)
Poaching Destroying an Entire Ecosystem
“It was heartbreaking and disgusting to see so many animals die to feed the Chinese demand for swim bladders. The trafficking of their swim bladder is destroying the entire ecosystem of the Gulf of California.” said Captain Layolle who witnessed the aftermath of the totoaba catch. “The illegal fishing activity has never been so dramatic here in the Gulf of California. We have been witnessing poacher’s activity day and night. High season for totoaba poaching is now hitting hard. It is having a huge impact on the biodiversity of this place; this is our last chance to save the species from extinction. But it seems that human ignorance and greed won’t stop.”
Dead Newborn Vaquita Found by Sea Shepherd
Sea Shepherd found a dead newborn vaquita.washed up on a beach near San Felipe and heard reports of a dead adult being found nearby. Sea Shepherd founder and CEO, Captain Paul Watson added: “We are on the threshold of the doorways to extermination of many marine species. If we lose the vaquita, what next? read the entire Sea Shepherd article at SeaShepherd.org.
A Crippling Blow to Saving the Vaquita
Read the entire story on Vaquita Violence in Animals 24-7: Fisher’ riot may hasten extinction of the vaquita porpoise.
Blue Ocean has been following the Vaquita Story
Blue Ocean has been following the devastating story of the Vaquita and the international attempts to save it. See our related posts including on the necessity of having local fishing communities share your goal of marine conservation, read:
Also be sure to read our new post on the amazing new marine creatures discovered in the deepest ocean, see:Awesome and a Bit Bizarre Marine Life Discoveries
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