plants and animals

World’s smallest porpoise headed for extinction

6f37c4181e9cd8bcc6f58b7d3719bdcd

Diego
Almendras

Guest Writer
The vaquita (Phocoena sinus), spanish word for little cow, inherited the title of the most endangered cetacean in the world from the baiji or Yangtze river dolphin (Lipotes vexillifer) which is believed to have gone extinct by 2006.

At the moment, vaquita is the most endangered marine mammal, with this year’s census estimating their number at less than 60. This rare and elusive porpoise is endemic to Mexico, confined to a small section in the northern part of the Gulf of California. It was described as a new species in 1958 and now, half of a century later, we are on the brink of losing them forever. They are often caught and drowned in gillnets used by illegal fishing operations in marine protected area within Mexico’s Gulf of California.


China’s demand for swim bladders from a giant mexican fish called the totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi) is putting the vaquita at risk. The totoaba closely resembles another species that was highly desired in the Asian market but was fished to extinction. Its swim bladders, believed to have medicinal value, can fetch anywhere from $2,500 to $9,400 per 100 grams, making them attractive prey for poachers who employ gillnets. This fishing method employs walls of net dropped down to trap fish, which may also suffocate other species such as dolphins, turtles and also vaquitas in the process.


Three vaquitas have already been killed this season. IUCN Cetacean Specialists Group comment that the necropsy suggested all three likely fell victim to the gillnets which ensnared them. At this rate, the porpoise might go extinct as early as 2018 if fishery bycatch is not eliminated immediately. Is important to say that the totoaba is also critically endangered, meaning the illegal fishery is devastating two species at the same time in the same ecosystem.


In 2015, the Mexican government passed a two-year ban on gillnet and longline fishing in the Sea of Cortez where the vaquita lives. However, this is not enough. In May 2016 International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita found that their extinction is imminent and thus recommended to ban gillnet permanently and strengthen enforcement against illegal totoaba gillnet fishing.


As long as this lucrative market continues, vaquita will inevitably die in illegal fishing nets and dwindle to extinction. Governments and environmental agencies need to urgently step up efforts to halt the illegal totoaba trade in order to save both species affected.


How can I help?

-Donate to Viva Vaquita, a conservation group dedicated to saving the vaquita
-Sign this petition asking the Mexican president to make the gill net ban permanent and to better enforce it
-Symbolically adopt a vaquita through the Porpoise Conservation Society
-Raise your voice and tell all your friend and family about the plight of the vaquita.
-Share this post on your social media, we need to put this debate on the table.

Image Credit: Frédérique Lucas

6f37c4181e9cd8bcc6f58b7d3719bdcd

Diego
Almendras

Guest Writer


http://sulc.us/b17vm
http://www.eartharchives.org/articles/world-s-smallest-porpoise-headed-for-extinction/