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Desperate attempt to save Vaquita

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The world smallest porpoise, found only in the Sea of Cortez, is surging towards extinction with as few as 60 remaining. And with females breeding only once every 2 years the species is even more vulnerable. 

The vaquitas are threatened primarily by gillnet fishing for the totoaba fish, another endangered species in the area that is hunted for its swim bladder, which is considered a delicacy in China.

A current two year ban on gillnets is already in place. However, in a desperate attempt to save the vaquita from extinction, the Mexican authorities have placed a permanent ban on night fishing and gillnets in the upper Sea of Cortez. The ban will be effective from September.

Omar Vidal, head of the Mexican office of the World Wildlife Fund, said –“The Mexican, U.S. and Chinese governments need to take urgent and coordinated action to stop the illegal fishing, trafficking and consumption of totoaba products. In the end, if the vaquita goes extinct it would inevitably be a shared responsibility of the three countries.”

Environmentalist groups have welcomed the ban but point out that it is not sufficient. The banning of fishing nets is notoriously difficult to enforce. There have been various attempts to implement such bans  over the last ten years, plus the creation of a vaquita refuge in the upper Sea of Cortez. But the fact remains that the tiny porpoises continue to suffocate one-by-one in gillnets. This has resulted in a staggering 92% decrease in the population in the last 20 years.

Recent radical suggestions for captive breeding of the vaquita have also been suggested. But this is a high risk option and scientists have mixed views. We covered all this in an earlier article so click here to read more about scientific and conservation programs for the vaquita.

Why not help spread the story and download a vaquita ringtone for your phone - a novel way to help raise awareness of endangered species.

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