• Jonas Teilmann

    Mexico: Our last chance to save the Vaquita porpoise

  • Mexico: Our last chance to save the Vaquita porpoise

  • Paula Olson

    Mexico: Our last chance to save the Vaquita porpoise

In Brief

Update, July 29, 2022:  URGENT APPEAL

The Mexican Government has established a Zero Tolerance Area (ZTA) to protect the Vaquita and the Mexican Navy is now installing submerged devices to capture illegal nets along the boundary of the ZTA.  What is needed is the ability to promptly remove snagged nets to avoid entrapping marine life.   ICFC is trying to raise the additional $30,000 needed for that and to enable community Sea Scouts to conduct patrols and warn fishermen not to set drift nets anywhere near the ZTA (so that they don’t lose their nets).  These actions, which will benefit both the vaquita and fisherman, are needed now before shrimp season begins in September. Your help (at any level) would be much appreciated.

Conservation Value:

The vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus, CR) is the most endangered marine mammal on Earth with as few as 8 to 10 likely remaining as of November 2021.  The rapid decline of its population from thousands to fewer than 10 is due to illegal gill-netting of the Totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi), a similar-sized (1-meter) fish. The swim bladder of the totoaba fetches tens of thousands of dollars in China.  Illegal gill-netting in the vaquita reserve’s No Take Zone is also depleting others marine sea life, including the totoaba (VU).

Can we really save this species?  There is a risk of failure, but also a real chance of success. A genetic analysis indicated that the population could recover and thrive if illegal fishing mortality is curbed.  And many other species have been brought back from the brink.  We believe we must make this final effort.    

Actions & Results:

The project aims to work with a local women’s organization (MAREM) to implement a community-based certification program to monitor and promote fishermen who comply to fishing regulations using alternative fishing gear.  In parallel, a fisheries improvement project with the Marine Stewardship Council will be launched to guide local fisheries toward sustainability with additional economic incentives such as fuel compensation to fish in areas beyond the Zero Tolerance Area.  The project will also produce educational videos to better inform the public and the potential seafood market for MAREM certified products. 

Location:

Northwest corner of the Gulf of California (see map below)

Goal:

To save the vaquita from extinction. 

Project Field Partner:

Pronatura Noroeste

Cost:

US$100,000 for the first year

Size of Area Involved:

2,444 square kilometers 

Support this project

Gallery

Click to enlarge an image

Vaquita with calf
Vaquita portrait
Marem
Vaquita by patricio robles gil
Vaquita by tom jefferson
Vaquita

In More Depth...

Map

Marine Protected Areas in the Bay of California, with project area circled in red.

Source: Morzaria-Luna, Hem Nalini, et al. 2018.  Biodiversity hotspots are not congruent with conservation areas in the Gulf of California. Biodiversity and Conservation 27.14: 3819-3842.

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