New Plan to Save Mexico's Rare Vaquita Porpoise
Sandra Dibble - U-T San Diego
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April 18, 2015
With the small and rarely seen vaquita porpoise verging on extinction, Mexico’s federal government is launching an unprecedented effort to save the species — through measures that include a dramatically expanded ban on gill net fishing in the Upper Gulf of California over the next two years.
President Enrique Peña Nieto traveled to the quiet Baja California fishing port of San Felipe to formally launch the new plan to save this small sea mammal endemic to the region. With fewer than 100 vaquita now believed alive, scientists say the species is likely to disappear unless drastic measures are taken immediately.
With this latest plan to preserve the vaquita, Mexico is “reaffirming the government’s commitment to the preservation of our environment,” Peña Nieto told a gathering of several hundred that included conservationists, the country’s naval and defense secretaries, as well as the governors of Sinaloa, Nayarit and Baja California.
The smallest and most endangered of the world’s 128 cetaceans, the vaquita can grow to four or five feet long and weigh up to 120 pounds. Among its characteristics are dark rings around the eyes and dark patches on its lips. First identified in 1958, the vaquita lives in the turbid waters of the Upper Gulf of California, where its population has declined sharply.
According to Armando Jaramillo, a marine biologist with Mexico’s National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change, the numbers have gone from 567 in an initial survey in 1997 to fewer than 100 today.
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