SAVE THE VAQUITA AND SEA OF CORTEZ FROM EXTINCTION

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The Call to Action:

Tell Mexico’s new Minister of the Environment and the President of Mexico that they cannot let the vaquita go extinct on their watch! Recent genetic research on the species shows that they CAN STILL RECOVER. There is hope, but there is not much time. The illegal fishing season starts again in November. Tell the Mexican government that they must launch a comprehensive plan to save the vaquita including the following strategies:  

  • Take measures to be ready to enforce the fishing ban come November
  • Prosecute offenders both on and off the water
  • Root out corruption in law enforcement and military  
  • Act to dismantle the known organized crime and cartel run wildlife trafficking rings 
  • Invest in sustainable economic alternatives for communities in the Sea of Cortez

Wildlife crime is a billion-dollar industry funding terrorist organizations and organized crime all around the world. The fight for the vaquita is about global security just as much as it is about species protection. Sign and share this petition to add your voice to the demand for action. Send a postcard or letter to Minister Victor Toledo, SEMARNAT, Embassy of Mexico, 1911 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20006. And follow us on social media to stay up to date about the fight to save the vaquita and new calls to action!

The Problem:
The endangered vaquita marina is on the brink of extinction with fewer than 15 remaining. This small, shy porpoise has seen a steep decline in population due to rampant illegal poaching largely funded and run by dangerous cartel influences from Mexico and organized crime from China. Another endangered species - the totoaba fish - is the target of illegal fishermen operating in the vaquita’s habitat. The swim bladder of a totoaba can sell for well over $110,000 on black markets in Hong Kong and mainland China, driving a “gold rush” among impoverished local fishermen to fulfill the profitable demand from illegal wildlife traffickers. Fishermen put out illegal gillnets to try and catch the prized totoaba but instead often catch sea turtles, rays, sharks, seals, dolphins… and the critically endangered vaquita. 

The vaquita is endemic to the Upper Gulf of California in the Sea of Cortez, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where the Colorado River empties into the slim finger of ocean that lies between mainland Mexico and the Baja peninsula. Jacques Cousteau called it “the aquarium of the sea” for its rich biodiversity. But illegal gillnets are destroying life in the Upper Gulf with thousands of submerged nets making walls of death throughout the refuge. 

Strict laws exist in Mexico banning fishing and the use of gillnets in the refuge. But lack of enforcement and corruption means that illegal fishing operations continue with impunity. Fishermen living within the vaquita refuge where legal fishing is now banned used to receive modest compensation, and the government promised investment in alternative, sustainable livelihoods. But the compensation program was cancelled when Mexican President Lopez Obrador began his presidential term in January 2019, and progress on sustainable solutions has stalled. Desperation combined with lack of enforcement has led to violent riots and an increase in illegal fishing. The vaquita and the stability of communities in the Upper Gulf are on the brink of extinction.  

The Solution: 

In October 2017, a multinational multimillion dollar effort to rescue the few remaining vaquita and bring them into protective captivity was launched. This effort was not successful. The future of the vaquita therefore depends upon rigorous action by Mexican law enforcement and military and combating the dangerous influence of Mexican cartels and Chinese traffickers. International interest in the plight of the vaquita has gained rapid momentum following the release of National Geographic Documentary Films’ SEA OF SHADOWS. From executive producer Leonardo Di Caprio and the makers of “The Ivory Game,” the film shines a spotlight on the frontlines of the battle to save the Sea of Cortez. 

In May 2019, the former Minister of the Environment in Mexico resigned following public criticism by the president for her lack of action on the vaquita issue and accusations of abuse of power. The new minister, Victor Toledo, is forming his policy and agenda with Mexican President Lopez Obrador. Help us ensure that they know protection for the vaquita, enforcement of the gillnet ban and other critical actions for the Sea of Cortez should be at the top of their list! The world is watching, and there is no time to lose. 



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