The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Only 60 Vaquita Left as World's Smallest Porpoise Slides Toward Extinction
Last year, I wrote how Mexico's plan for saving the vaquita, a small porpoise species found only in the northern part of the Gulf of California, was nothing more than a “roadmap for vaquita extinction." Late last Friday, well after there was any chance for the story to be part of last week's news cycle, the Mexican government issued a press release about its work to save the species. Buried far down in the release was the one number that tells you all you need to know about the status of the vaquita and the efficacy of Mexico's efforts to save it. There are only about 60 vaquitas remaining, down from the 100 that were living a little less than two years ago. Mexico's plan is not working.
Basically, about 40 percent of the vaquita population has disappeared at the same time that Mexico has been vigorously working to avert vaquita extinction. I'd hate to see what happens to a species on the brink that Mexico ignores.
Now, to be fair, other countries have a role to play and a responsibility to the vaquita. The U.S., for example, is a transit point for smuggling the fish (totoaba) that today is driving the vaquita's demise. Gillnets set by poachers to feed Chinese demand for totoaba swim bladders catch more than fish. They also entangle vaquita, which drown in the gear.
As part of many totoaba smuggling routes, the U.S. must do more to crack down on such trafficking. And the U.S. has a responsibility to offer assistance to Mexico. The vaquita's perilous condition is a direct result of the U.S. failing to implement a law that bans fish imports that do not meet U.S. standards for marine mammal protection. For years the U.S. knew that Mexico's shrimp fishery in the upper Gulf of California was harming the vaquita in excess of U.S. standards. Yet, vaquita-killing shrimp continued to flow into the U.S. in violation of federal law.
There is still time for the vaquita to recover and thrive if Mexico produces the right conditions: all fishing must be banned in vaquita habitat; the ban must be scrupulously enforced; and Mexico must work closely with other countries to secure the resources necessary to enforce a ban and to crack down on illegal trafficking and markets.
It's up to Mexico to decide if the vaquita will be on the path to recovery in a few years versus the road to extinction. I have no doubt Mexico can create the conditions necessary for vaquita recovery. It just has to choose that path.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Whitney E. Akers
- "The Game Changers" is a new documentary on Netflix that posits a vegan diet can improve athletic performance in professional athletes.
- Limited studies available show that the type of diet — plant-based or omnivorous — doesn't give you an athletic advantage.
- We talked to experts about what diet is the best for athletic performance.
Packed with record-setting athletes displaying cut physiques and explosive power, "The Game Changers," a new documentary on Netflix, has a clear message: Vegan is best.
By John R. Platt
When it comes to solving problems related to wildlife trade, there are an awful lot of "sticky widgets."
By Bijal Trivedi
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report on Nov. 13 that describes a list of microorganisms that have become resistant to antibiotics and pose a serious threat to public health. Each year these so-called superbugs cause more than 2.8 million infections in the U.S. and kill more than 35,000 people.
By Joe Vukovich
Under the guise of responding to consumer complaints that today's energy- and water-efficient dishwashers take too long, the Department of Energy has proposed creating a new class of dishwashers that wouldn't be subject to any water or energy efficiency standards at all. The move would not only undermine three decades of progress for consumers and the environment, it is based on serious distortions of fact regarding today's dishwashers.