With Just 30 Left, Time Runs Out for Mexico's Vaquita
Alicia Grae - Care2
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February 7, 2017

Sea Shepherd vs Poachers in the Gulf of California (Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)

Conservationists have been warning that the world’s smallest and rarest porpoise may go extinct if we don’t act to save them, and now a new report paints a shockingly dire picture of their chances of surviving.

The vaquita only exists in a small area in the Gulf of California, off the coast of Mexico. Despite past efforts to protect them, including the creation of a refuge in 2005, their numbers have continued to decline at an alarming rate.

They lost nearly half of their entire population from 2015 to 2016. Over the past five years, their numbers have dropped by 90 percent over just the past five years.

Now, according to a new report released by the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA), there are now just 30 individuals left in existence.

One of their main threats is being killed as bycatch after getting entangled in gillnets used to catch shrimp and other fish. They’re also suffering as a result of illegal fishing targeting endangered totoaba for its swim bladder, which is used in Chinese medicine and is also considered a delicacy.

The scientific consensus is that if there’s any hope of saving the vaquita, gillnets have to go. In 2015, the Mexican government announced a two-year ban on gillnet fishing in the vaquita’s range, in addition to increasing monitoring and enforcement of the ban and compensating fishermen for their lost catches.

The Mexican Navy and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society are working to protect the vaquita as part of Operation Milagro III by policing the area and removing what they can, but the nets are still a major problem and the ban is about to expire in April.

Read the rest at Care2

Related: Fish Bladders, Dolphin Trackers, and Human Greed: The Vaquita’s Wild Path to Extinction (Fusion)

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