AUGUST 3, 2014
NEWS FLASH - The Vaquita is Closer to Extinction Than We Thought – Only an Immediate and Total Gillnet Ban Can Save the Species!!
A new study by an international committee set up by the Mexican Government to advise on the recovery of the vaquita (CIRVA – the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita) has shown that the vaquita is much closer to going extinct than anyone thought. Delays in eliminating the legal gillnet fishing and a new, illegal gillnet fishery for totoaba (an endangered fish endemic to the northern Gulf) have resulted in a dramatic increase in the decline rate of the vaquita, from about 5-8%/year to the current 18.5%/year. Only an estimated 97 vaquitas remain, and probably less than 25 of these are reproductive females.
Download the CIRVA 2014 Report (PDF):
The vaquita is a small porpoise (whales, dolphins, and porpoises are called cetaceans by scientists). It is one of only seven species of true porpoises, and is the only one that occurs in warm waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean. It is found in a tiny area in the extreme northern Gulf of California, in Baja California, Mexico. It is a unique species, with a body shape and color pattern unlike that of any other. It has a tall dorsal fin (for a porpoise) and a beautiful color pattern on the face, with dark eye rings and lip patches that look like an application of “goth” make-up. There is only one small population, and if the species goes extinct, they will be gone forever.
The vaquita has probably always been a rare species. But in the last few decades, the small population has plummeted, as gillnets set for fish and shrimp kill more porpoises than are born. The nearly-invisible gillnets trap vaquitas and they drown. The current population is thought to be less than 100 individuals, and is declining rapidly. If prompt progress is not made, the vaquita may be extinct in a few short years. The very perilous situation of the Vaquita has been recognized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which lists it as Critically Endangered.
Can the Vaquita be Saved?
Yes! Unlike some endangered species that have no place left to live in the wild, the vaquita’s home in the Gulf of California is clean and healthy. The only real problem is the gillnets that entangle and kill vaquitas. If the fishing practices can be moved out of the small area where they live, the species will likely recover.
The Mexican Government is working on a plan to compensate gillnet fishermen for giving up gillnet fishing in the vaquita’s range. This is being done through various efforts, including a ‘buy-out’ program, a ‘rent-out’ program, and the development of alternative fishing gear that does not harm vaquitas. We applaud Mexico for these efforts, but recent economic events have slowed progress. Please sign this petition to encourage the Mexican Government to implement conservation measures immediately and fully.
With your help, we can save the Vaquita!!
The vaquita has only been known to us since 1958.
Vaquita means “little cow” in Spanish.
At about 5 feet (1.5 m) long, it’s the smallest species of cetacean.
The vaquita lives only about a 4 hour drive from San Diego.
Unlike other porpoises, vaquitas give birth only every other year.
Newborns are born in the spring (March/April).
They live to be about 20-21 years old.
Vaquitas have never been held in aquaria.
It is the rarest and most-endangered species of marine mammal in the world.
Its fate is tied to that of the upper Gulf of California ecosystem.
The vaquita could go extinct in two years if we do not act NOW.