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Mexico’s Gulf of California is the only natural habitat of the world’s most rare marine mammal – the vaquita. These small porpoises have got quite a bit of press lately, unfortunately, this is because they are so critically endangered.
The number of vaquitas living in the waters of the Gulf is 30 – only 30 individuals are still alive, in the entire world. According to a Care2 petition, that is half of what the vaquita population was only last year. The animal is literally at the very brink of extinction…
The reason for the dramatic drop in the number of vaquitas lies, mainly, in human activity. Vaquitas are dying as victims of bycatch, being caught in gillnets – large panels of netting that get dragged across big areas of water, catching everything that gets in their path. Sadly, they are not a targeted species but they live in close proximity to the Totoaba fish which is illegally caught for their swim bladders, which are used to make a sort of “aquatic cocaine.” When fishermen set out to catch Totoaba, they can accidentally net vaquitas, contributing to the dire situation they are in now. Even though the Gulf of Calfornia is a UNESCO World Heritage site, marine mammals are still very often caught and drowned in the deadly nets used by illegal fishing operations.
Fortunately, vaquitas have recently found friends in people with a lot of power. President Peña Nieto of Mexico has just committed to enforcing a permanent ban on using gillnets in the Upper Gulf of California, signing the document together with the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and the Carlos Slim Foundation. This fantastic step could really mean a chance to restore vaquitas’ population – but, since the number of these animals is currently so dramatically small, we need every pressure to keep the ban strict and working. With just 30 vaquitas living in the waters, every single one of them is incredibly precious and in need of the most vigilant and intense protection.
Click here to sign a petition to President Nieto to enforce a permanent ban on gillnets and develop a comprehensive recovery plan to save the vaquita from extinction!
Image source: Paula Olson/Wikimedia