The vaquita, a rare porpoise native to the Gulf of California, is threatened with extinction. It’s been reported that there are likely only 97 vaquitas left in the world – and that’s on the optimistic end. There could be as little as 57. This has earned the vaquita the unfortunate moniker of “world’s most endangered marine animal.”

Sadly, humans are largely to blame for the decline of the vaquita.

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Since 1997, 80 percent of the world’s vaquitas have fallen victim to bycatch and reports show that the current population has been cut in HALF in the past three years alone.  

Vaquitas are frequently caught in gillnets operated by illegal totoaba fishermen and left to drown. Although the vaquita is in dire straights, totoaba are highly-sought after and can sell for $20,000 each. An article from Yale’s Environment360 described a recent bust that recovered over 200 totoaba swim bladders crossing the border from Mexico into California. This catch was estimated to be worth roughly $3.6 million, had the shipment reached the Asian market. If $3.6 million worth of totoaba were on the line, we can only imagine how many vaquitas could have been carelessly caught alongside. 

With such potential for profit – and disregard for the threat facing these amazing animals – it’s no wonder the numbers are dropping by the second to meet this lucrative demand. If this doesn’t stop soon, this small porpoise could be completely wiped out in just a couple of years. 

What Can You Do to Help? 

The best way you can help these species is to encourage those in charge to make the issue of extinction a top priority. Let them know how important the totoaba and vaquita are to you, and encourage aggressive protection for these important animals. Take action now by signing Greenpeace’s petition to save this species.

In addition,you can also help to make a difference for these two marine species with your diet. Aggressive fishing methods to meet demands for seafood contribute to the decimation of both of these species. By choosing to leave fish and seafood off your plate for one year alone you can save 225 fish and 151 shellfish. When you consider the fact that around 40 percent of all commercial fish catches are composed of bycatch, marine animals like the vaquita who are unintentionally caught, when you save 225 fish, you’re also helping to save countless other marine species!

If we’ve lost half the vaquita population in the past three years alone, then there’s no telling how soon they could be gone forever. The time to act is now!

Lead image source: Omar Vidal/ NOAA Fisheries West Coast