The Long Journey to Save Mexico's Vanishing Vaquita
Bob Berwyn - Summit County Voice
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January 12, 2016

Operation Milagro II Vaquita Defense Campaign (Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)

Conservation groups and the Mexican government are making progress in trying to avert extinction of the vaquita porpoise, a small marine mammal that lives only in a few thousand square miles in the northern Gulf of California.

Late last month, Greenpeace announced that several Hong Kong traders involved in selling illegal marine products from the Gulf of California were convicted and fined for their activities, which could help deter more trade in illegal marine products from the region. It’s that trade that’s pushing the vaquita to the brink of extinction.

And in the Gulf of California, the Mexican government has stepped up enforcement of a gill net ban that’s aimed at protecting the vaquita. At the same time, the Mexican government has partnered with Sea Shepherd, giving the nonprofit direct action group the authority to remove illegal gill nets. Two Sea Shepherd vessels are patrolling the region as part of the group’s Operation Milagro II.

According to Greenpeace, there are now more than 2,400 employees that have been trained to enforce the gill net ban. Between March and December, 2015, there were thousands of inspections related to vaquita conservation resulting in the arrest of 58 people and the confiscation of 265 gill nets.

Vaquitas live only in a small sliver of the Gulf of California and their numbers have dropped drastically during recent decades, likely to less than 100 individuals. The main reason for the decline is illegal gill net fishing for totoaba, a type of sea bass that is also listed as endangered. The nets set for totoaba ensnare vaquitas, who can’t escape the mesh and drown.

Read the rest at Summit County Voice

Related: China's Craze for 'Aquatic Cocaine' Is Pushing Two Species Into Oblivion (The Guardian)

Related: Urgent International Action Needed on Illegal Fish Bladder Trade to Save Two Marine Species from Extinction (The Economic Voice)

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