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Plan Underway to Save Mexico's Endangered Vaquita

Elizabeth Shockman -
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September 2, 2016

The vaquita is one of the smallest, and rarest, cetacean species. The diminutive porpoise is native to the northern part of the Gulf of California. Scientists estimate that only 60 individuals remain in the wild. What’s driving down the population? Nets cast by poachers searching for an endangered fish — the totoaba.

Listen to the full interview:

“The reason that they are even closer to extinction than ever before is because of this illegal activity where they set these gill nets with no surface markings to catch this big fish,” says Barbara Taylor, a conservation biologist at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center. “And it means that we have lost 80 percent of the species in only four years. So there's a tremendous amount of ongoing dangers and despite heroic efforts by the government of Mexico to ban gill net legal fishing, the illegal fishing is still an enormous threat and it isn't contained yet."

Taylor and her colleagues are working on a risky strategy to save the vaquita, in part motivated by a past failure.

“I was on a survey in 2006 to find the last of the Yangtze River dolphins and take them into oxbow lakes to protect them. And we were too late,” Taylor says. “We lost a species that's been here for 35 million years and that had a profound effect on all of us — on the recovery team — for what then became the most endangered marine mammal in the world.”

Taylor and other researchers are investigating a conservation strategy that involves capturing and placing some of the remaining vaquitas in enclosures out in the gulf — in an effort to save them. There are, however, a lot of risks to this strategy.

Read the rest at

Related: A Mexican Porpoise is Facing Extinction — Almost by Accident (

Photo: Paula Olson/NOAA

  Check out Deep Blue Conservancy

  Check out Ecological Group of Costa Verde

  Check out The Western Ecological Society

  Check out Association for Environmental Unity in Mexico

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