Mexico vaquita porpoise faces extinction

New ship Seahorse debuted in operation to save near-extinct vaquita porpoise
A mother and calf vaquita, Mexico, credit: Paula Olson/NOAA Fisheries/via Reuters

An extinction alert has been issued by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) for the endangered vaquita porpoise, whose population has decreased to less than a dozen.

The vaquita, native to Mexico’s Gulf of California and the world’s smallest porpoise, is critically endangered due to illegal gill net fishing for totoaba – a fish that is also endangered and in high demand for their swim bladder in China. 

There has been pressure on the Mexican government to crack down on this practice. In May, the United States interior secretary declared that Mexico has failed to stop the illegal wildlife trade threatening the vaquita.

The IWC reported an 83% drop in the vaquita population between 2015 and 2018 to only nine or ten of the marine animals in total.

“The extinction of the vaquita is inevitable unless 100% of gillnets are substituted immediately with alternative fishing gears that protect the vaquita and the livelihoods of fishers,” IWC said.

The organization believes that a ban on gill netting will give the vaquita a chance at recovery.

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