What steps are being taken to conserve vaquitas? The Mexican government temporarily prohibited gillnet fishing in the vaquitas' habitat in April 2015. The only option to rescue them is for the government to outlaw unlawful totoaba poaching and trading, as well as remove any nets from vaquitas' habitats.
There is no guarantee that these actions will be successful, but they are the best options available right now. It is important for people not to trade in illegal items such as fish, because this activity puts more pressure on the vaquita and other marine animals through poaching and trafficking. If you come across any illegal activities, please report them directly to proper authorities so that measures can be taken to prevent any further damage to our ocean resources.
Vaquitas are killed in shark, ray, mackerel, chano, and shrimp trawl nets. Bycatch in illicit gillnets set targeting totoaba has been the most serious concern since 2010. In 1993, the Mexican government established the Upper Gulf of California Biosphere Reserve, in part to safeguard the vaquita's habitat. However, illegal fishing activities have not been banned within this reserve, so the vaquita continues to be at risk.
In addition to bycatch, vaquitas may also be killed intentionally by fishermen who view them as competitors for fish food. There have also been reports of gun violence against fishers who trespass on vaquita waters illegally.
This small cetacean was once common in coastal waters of Mexico but is now believed to survive only in two small areas of the upper Gulf of California. Its tiny population cannot withstand high levels of mortality and so it is listed as endangered. The main threat to the vaquita is loss of life through drowning in illegal gillnets set for totoaba harvest.
Illegal fishing has become a major problem for the vaquita. Although efforts have been made by various organizations to protect the animal, such as deploying drone boats to monitor gillnet fisheries, these measures have had little effect on deterring would-be thieves.
There are several proposed solutions to this problem.
The vaquita is the smallest and most endangered porpoise in the world, and it is literally on its last fins. The most serious hazard to vaquitas is drowning in fishing gear. Also, climate change is causing their habitat to evaporate.
Vaquitas used to be widespread throughout the Gulf of California but by 1996 only 15 remained. Since then, no more have been found dead or alive. Scientists suspect that many others may have gone missing without a trace.
Vaquitas are worth about $150 million per year for their milk which people use to make cheese. They also provide pleasure for humans with their beautiful blue eyes and black-and-white stripes. Sadly, due to their tiny population size, any threat to the vaquita could cause extinction. Climate change is only increasing this threat by reducing their remaining habitat.
In 2010, an international effort began to save the vaquita. A nonprofit organization called VIRIN has helped construct safe havens for vaquitas within their remaining habitat. These sanctuaries are protected areas where fishermen cannot go and hunt fish.
Unfortunately, even inside these sanctuaries, vaquitas are still dying from fishing gear. This means that they can't escape danger when they need to find food or shelter.
The vaquita is the world's most endangered cetacean. Without a properly implemented gillnet ban over its entire habitat, the species, which has as few as 10 left, would go extinct. The WWF is working hard to guarantee that they may live and prosper in their native habitat.
Vaquitas were originally found along the US Gulf Coast but have been pushed out to sea by increasing human activity so now can only be found in the waters of Mexico. They are listed as "vulnerable" by the IUCN because there are still too many threats to their survival. The main one being illegal fishing with gillnets, which is killing them by trapping fish inside the netting.
In 1998, an international agreement was signed by nearly all countries in North America and Europe banning the use of gillnets to catch shrimp. This action has helped reduce vaquita mortality by nearly 90 percent! However, gillnet bans do not work if people don't know about them or if they break down and aren't repaired/replaced regularly. That's why the WWF has proposed a permanent moratorium on gillnet fishing throughout their range.
In 2016, officials discovered two dead vaquitas trapped in a net off the coast of Mexico. This is the first sighting of this rare animal in over 20 years. Scientists believe that these two animals were probably caught up in a net longer than they were expected to be alive.