US Govt to Spend $600K Rescuing Mexican Porpoises
David Gotfredson - CBS News 8
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August 5, 2017



United States taxpayers will pay more than $600,000 for a daring rescue operation in Mexico aimed at rounding up porpoises in the Sea of Cortez.

A CBS News 8 investigation uncovered the federal money being spent to capture the endangered vaquita and place the marine mammals into a seaside breeding program near San Felipe.

For years, illegal gillnet fishing nets have been drowning vaquita in the upper Sea of Cortez. There are only 30 of the small porpoises left and none have ever been captured alive.

Volunteers with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have spent the past two years patrolling Mexican waters with ships and drones, removing the nets that trap and kill the vaquita.

“It's been very successful. We've taken 450 illegal nets out of the water along with long lines. We've caught numerous poachers with our drones and night vision,” said Captain Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd president and founder.

This coming October, an international team of scientists will try to capture up to ten of the endangered porpoises and put them into seaside pens on the Sea of Cortez.

“The clock is ticking. We're down to the last few opportunities to save the species from extinction. And we should go out in the field with every tool that might possibly work,” said NOAA Marine Biologist Barbara Taylor in an interview earlier this year.

The team plans to use U.S. Navy bottlenose dolphins trained in San Diego Bay to locate and track the vaquita porpoises in Mexico. Total cost to U.S. taxpayers will be more than $613,000.

... The Mexican government has pledged $3 million to build sea pens and onshore pens near San Felipe. Several charitable foundations are also collecting online donations for the effort.

Read the rest at CBS News 8

Related: Ninja Immigrants: How Big Sea Turtles from Central Mexico Found New Homes on a Long Beach River (The Los Angeles Times)

Related: Video: What Is a Whale Fall? Here's a Whale Graveyard Found in SoCal (Houston Chronicle)

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