Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Endangered Species Found Dead, Likely Result of Illegal Fishing

Animals

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has vowed to increase night patrols of the Vaquita Refuge in the Gulf of California after two endangered species were found dead this weekend—a presumed result of illegal fishing activity in the area.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has vowed to increase night patrols of the Vaquita Refuge in the Gulf of California, after two endangered species were found dead this weekend. Photo credit: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

While patrolling the Vaquita Refuge in the Gulf of California March 4, crew onboard Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's research vessel, the R/V Martin Sheen, found a dead vaquita porpoise floating in the water. Nearby, the crew also found a dead totoaba bass, along with a dead common dolphin. The dolphin had a hook piercing the body below the pectoral fin. In addition to finding the dead vaquita and totoaba, the crew of the M/V Farley Mowat's small boat, the Wolf, found a dead totoaba just off San Felipe March 5. The totoaba's belly was cut open and the swim bladder was removed. This swim bladder can fetch an estimated $20,000 on the illegal wildlife black markets in Asia. The vaquita and totoaba are both endangered and protected species.

Photo credit: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

After this devastating discovery, crews then found the body of a vulnerable species: a great white shark on March 6. The shark measured approximately four meters long and was entangled in a totoaba gillnet along with a dead dolphin. The past three days of Operation Milagro demonstrate why all gillnets must be permanently banned. Gillnets are indiscriminate killers, trapping any marine life that comes into contact with them. It is presumed that all of the deaths are a result of illegal fishing activity in the refuge and Sea Shepherd will therefore increase night patrols to protect these endangered species.

In recent weeks, crews of the R/V Martin Sheen and M/V Farley Mowat have been successfully dragging specially constructed hooks to find the illegal fishing gear. Just two weeks ago, the crews were able to free a humpback whale that was entangled in a gillnet. The gillnet was set for totoaba. Totoaba are targeted by poachers for their swim bladders while vaquita are often caught and drown in the gillnets used to catch totoaba, due to their similar size. Scientists studying the vaquita estimate that there are less than 100 individuals left and that the population is declining at 18.5 percent each year.

In April, 2015, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced a two-year ban on the use of gillnets in a 13,000 square kilometer range of the Gulf of California. Sea Shepherd's ships the R/V Martin Sheen and M/V Farley Mowat, a former U.S. Coast Guard Cutter, have been patrolling the Vaquita Refuge since November 2015 in an effort to stop poaching of the totoaba and remove any illegal fishing gear to save the vaquita.

“Finding the dead vaquita was heartbreaking and my biggest fear became reality," commented Operation Milagro campaign leader and M/V Farley Mowat captain, Oona Layolle. “The crew of both Sea Shepherd ships have worked so hard alongside the Mexican Navy and PROFEPA to save the vaquita. With so many poachers operating at night, we will increase our night patrols to protect the vaquita."

Since Dec. 31, 2015, the Mexican government authorized Sea Shepherd to remove gillnets and other illegal fishing gear in the gillnet ban zone.

Captain Layolle continued, “This may seem like a horrible setback (and it is certainly horrible), but our efforts to save the vaquita will continue, stronger than ever. We are and will keep, doing our best so these beautiful and shy animals will not become extinct on our watch."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Ocean 'Artivist' Creates Breathtaking Coral Reef Sculptures

Young Humpback Whale Found Dead, Exposes Devastating Impacts of Ocean Trash

TED Talk: 'It's Not Too Late for Our Oceans'

Whale Found Dead With Small Pieces of Plastic Garbage in Its Stomach

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Michael Svoboda

The enduring pandemic will make conventional forms of travel difficult if not impossible this summer. As a result, many will consider virtual alternatives for their vacations, including one of the oldest forms of virtual reality – books.

Read More Show Less
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility on Thursday accused NOAA of ignoring its own scientists' findings about the endangerment of the North Atlantic right whale. Lauren Packard / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Julia Conley

As the North Atlantic right whale was placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's list of critically endangered species Thursday, environmental protection groups accusing the U.S. government of bowing to fishing and fossil fuel industry pressure to downplay the threat and failing to enact common-sense restrictions to protect the animals.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Beth Ann Mayer

Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.

Read More Show Less
Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday. JustTulsa / CC BY 2.0

Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

Read More Show Less
The Firefly Watch project is among the options for aspiring citizen scientists to join. Mike Lewinski / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Tiffany Means

Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.

Read More Show Less
People sit at the bar of a restaurant in Austin, Texas, on June 26, 2020. Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered bars to be closed by noon on June 26 and for restaurants to be reduced to 50% occupancy. Coronavirus cases in Texas spiked after being one of the first states to begin reopening. SERGIO FLORES / AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A never-before-documented frog species has been discovered in the Peruvian highlands and named Phrynopus remotum. Germán Chávez

By Angela Nicoletti

The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in central Perú are among the most remote places in the world.

Read More Show Less