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Mexico's Vaquitas Could Be Extinct in Four Years

Felix Balthasar - Marine News
go to original
December 10, 2014

New research conducted by an international panel of scientists has revealed that Vaquitas, rare porpoises that live off the coast of Mexico, could go extinct in four years without stepped-up enforcement measures.

Vaquitas are now listed as most endangered marine mammal in the world and have been dying in high number as they get caught in fishing nets.

The new study has shown that governments are not taking necessary measures to protect the animals against illegal fishing nets.

The vaquita, or Phocoena sinus, lives in the Gulf of California, off the coast of Mexico. The animals have winsome faces with a distinctive look. The smallest type of porpoise, the vaquita measures just 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 meters) in length and is typically hard to spot.

According to Rebecca Lent, executive director of the Marine Mammal Commission, these species look like they're wearing dark lipstick and mascara. MMC is a federal agency that aims to protect and conserve marine mammals.

The reason behind the vaquita's steep decline is the rise of illegal fishing. Gill net, a kind of vertical net that traps fish by their gills has been used by boaters to hunt for an endangered fish called the totoaba. The fish's swim bladder is considered valuable for medicinal properties in China.

According to Peter Thomas, International and Policy Program director for the Marine Mammal Commission, the gill nets are not visible to the vaquita. As a result, these animals get entangled in these nets.

The study found that there are about 90 fishing boats have been in the area since the start of the new fishing season, with at least 17 confirmed to have gill nets aboard.

Regardless of knowing everything, Mexico says have done very little to enforce laws prohibiting fishing in the area.

The extinction of vaquita will create a huge impact on the whole marine ecosystem in the Gulf of California. According to Lent, it is important to preserve the entire vaquita range. This can be done by making fishing with gill nets illegal.

See the original at Marine News

Photo: Paula Olson/NOAA

Related: NGOs Petition Mexican President to Save the Vaquita in Advance of Major Decision

  Check out Deep Blue Conservancy

  Check out The Western Ecological Society

  Check out Association for Environmental Unity in Mexico

  Check out Nuestra Tierra Turtle Conservation Program

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