There’s a good chance you may not even have heard of the most endangered marine mammal in the world, the vaquita, let alone seen one. The International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita announced that there are only 60 vaquitas left in the wild, which is a shocking 97% decline in the vaquita’s population since 1992.
The vaquita is the smallest of cetaceans, and gets no larger than 5 feet in length and 120 pounds. It is the only porpoise that can be found in warm waters. Vaquitas are found in the Gulf of California.The vaquita’s astonishing decline can be attributed to the popularity of the totoaba, a critically endangered fish. The fish’s bladder is seen as a delicacy in Asia, especially in China and Hong Kong, selling on the black market for $5000 a pound or more. The vaquitas become trapped in the gill nets used by the fisherman, who are catching shrimp, fish, or illegal totoaba.
Last year, in an effort to safeguard both the totoaba and the vaquita, Mexico placed a two year ban on the use of gill nets, whether for illegal or legal purposes. The Mexican Navy is in charge of enforcement of the ban and has upped its surveillance. But as with most things, with the black market demand for the totoaba strong, the ban on gill nets has not stopped all fisherman. As recently as March, three dead vaquitas were found entangled in gill nets. Activists stress that more needs to be done as soon as possible, in Mexico and in Asia, to save the vaquita from extinction. MORE