The Most Endangered Marine Mammal Faces Extinction

by | May 18, 2016 | Conservation, Science | 2 comments

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

  • Francis Yupangco

    Francis is a marine biologist with an MBA and over 20 years of professional aquarium experience. Francis is the former Aquatic Development Manager at Hagen USA., makers of Fluval brand aquarium products. He co-stars on Nat Geo WILD's reality TV series Fish Tank Kings where he is the resident "Fish Geek" and was Director of Marketing at Living Color Aquariums. He is an avid explorer having visited over 45 countries and lived in 7. At 17, he was among the youngest aquarists ever hired by the Vancouver Aquarium, where he worked for 7 years. His aquatic biology experience ranges from larval fish rearing to the design, construction and operational management of renowned public aquariums around the world. Francis is currently head of marketing at the world's largest vertically integrated fish farming company.

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  1. Ravi Purba

    I agree Judy, I remember watching documentry On discovery channel with my kids and they showed so many birds and animals that are extinct and we don’t ever realize this…


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