Quantcast

First Vaquita Rescued in Bid to Save the Porpoise From Extinction

Animals
Scientists releasing the calf back into the wild. VaquitaCPR

A project to save a small, critically endangered porpoise called the vaquita in the Gulf of California succeeded in capturing a 6-month-old calf in mid-October.

Veterinarians noticed signs of stress, so they made the decision to release it back into the wild, rather than keep it in a sea pen.

The project's leaders are heartened by the experience and hope to round up more vaquita to keep them safe from the still-present threat of gillnet entanglement in the northern Sea of Cortez.

For the first time, a team of scientists has captured and then released a vaquita (Phocoena sinus), a rare porpoise in the Gulf of California, as part of a project called VaquitaCPR aimed at hauling the critically endangered species back from the edge of extinction.


"The successful rescue made conservation history and demonstrates that the goal of VaquitaCPR is feasible," said Rafael Pacchiano, the minister of the environment and natural resources in Mexico, in a statement. "No one has ever captured and cared for a vaquita porpoise, even for a brief period of time."

VaquitaCPR

The VaquitaCPR team, comprising members from at least seven countries, caught a 6-month-old calf on Oct. 19 with the aid of underwater acoustic monitoring, but team veterinarians noticed that the animal seemed to be stressed out. Once they had taken tissue samples for later genetic testing, they released it back into the location where they had found it.

"While we were disappointed we could not keep the vaquita in human care, we have demonstrated that we are able to locate and capture a vaquita," said Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, a government scientist and the head of VaquitaCPR, in the statement.

Short for "Vaquita Conservation, Protection and Recovery," VaquitaCPR is a Mexican government-led project aiming to find the porpoises in the wild and house them in specially built pens. It's a last-ditch effort to save the remaining vaquita, whose numbers have declined to fewer than 30, one that was recommended by the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita, known by its Spanish acronym, CIRVA.

Team members with a vaquita calf. VaquitaCPR

Gillnets, now banned in the Gulf of California, still pose the persistent danger of entanglement to vaquita, whether as abandoned "ghost" nets or those used by fishermen and women hunting for a Critically Endangered fish called the totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi). Totoaba swim bladders fetch thousands of dollars in Asian traditional medicine markets.

Ultimately, the team plans to shelter caught vaquita in floating sea pens near the town of San Felipe until the animals have a better chance of survival. Crews are also searching for ghost and illicit nets with the help of U.S. Navy-trained dolphins and a boat from the Whale Museum in La Paz. VaquitaCPR said that the boat is responsible for pulling 274,320 meters (900,000 feet) of nets from the water.

Though the scientists weren't able to keep the animal from this first "rescue," Rojas-Bracho said that the process helped validate VaquitaCPR's ability to transport and assess the health of a captured vaquita.

The animal is sometimes referred to as the "panda of the sea" or by its Spanish name, vaquita marina, which translates to "little sea cow."

Pacchiano said this experience made him hopeful. "I am confident we can indeed save the vaquita marina from extinction."

Video of vaquita rescue efforts in the Gulf of California below.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

PhotoAlto / Laurence Mouton / Getty Images

By Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD

You've probably heard the buzz around collagen supplements and your skin by now. But is the hype really that promising? After all, research has pointed to both the benefits and downsides of collagen supplements — and for many beauty-conscious folk, collagen isn't vegan.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Marlene Cimons

Neil Pederson's introduction to tree rings came from a "sweet and kindly" college instructor, who nevertheless was "one of the most boring professors I'd ever experienced," Pederson said. "I swore tree rings off then and there." But they kept coming back to haunt him.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Aerial view of the explosion site of a chemical factory on March 22 in Yancheng, Jiangsu Province of China. Caixin Media / VCG / Getty Images)

At least 47 people have died in an explosion at a plant in Yancheng, China Thursday run by a chemical company with a history of environmental violations, Sky News reported.

Read More Show Less
A fishmonger in Elmina, a fishing port in the Central Region of Ghana. Environmental Justice Foundation

By Daisy Brickhill

Each morning, men living in fishing communities along Ghana's coastline push off in search of the day's catch. But when the boats come back to shore, it's the women who take over.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Sam Nickerson

Links between excess sugar in your diet and disease have been well-documented, but new research by Harvard's School of Public Health might make you even more wary of that next soda: it could increase your risk of an early death.

The study, published this week in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation, found that drinking one or two sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) each day — like sodas or sports drinks — increases risk of an early death by 14 percent.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Krystal B / Flickr

Tyson Foods is recalling approximately 69,093 pounds of frozen chicken strips because they may have been contaminated with pieces of metal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced Thursday.

The affected products were fully-cooked "Buffalo Style" and "Crispy" chicken strips with a "use by" date of Nov. 30, 2019 and an establishment number of "P-7221" on the back of the package.

"FSIS is concerned that some product may be in consumers' freezers," the recall notice said. "Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase."

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Hrefna Palsdottir, MS

Cold cereals are an easy, convenient food.

Read More Show Less
A tractor spraying a field with pesticides in Orem, Utah. Aqua Mechanical / CC BY 2.0

Environmental exposure to pesticides, both before birth and during the first year of life, has been linked to an increased risk of developing autism spectrum disorder, according to the largest epidemiological study to date on the connection.

The study, published Wednesday in BMJ, found that pregnant women who lived within 2,000 meters (approximately 1.2 miles) of a highly-sprayed agricultural area in California had children who were 10 to 16 percent more likely to develop autism and 30 percent more likely to develop severe autism that impacted their intellectual ability. If the children were exposed to pesticides during their first year of life, the risk they would develop autism went up to 50 percent.

Read More Show Less