Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Just 'Days' Left to Save 6 to 19 Remaining Vaquitas

Popular
University of St. Andrews Communications Office

There are only between six and 19 vaquitas left, a new study has concluded, and, unless swift action is taken, the endangered species could go extinct within a year.


The world's smallest porpoises, found only in Mexico's Gulf of California, are threatened because they are caught by mistake in illegal gillnets. The study, published in Royal Society Open Science Wednesday, found that 10 had died this way from March 2016 to March 2019.

"Every day wasted is making a difference. The key thing is that we need action now," study co-author Len Thomas, an ecological statistician at the University of St. Andrews' Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling, told Vice. "There are only days to do this."

Researchers from St. Andrews in Scotland, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Mexican government counted the vaquitas by listening for their echolocation clicks. It is easier to monitor the porpoises acoustically than visually, The Weather Channel explained. Since they began acoustic monitoring in 2011, the researchers have determined that the vaquita population has fallen by 98.6 percent.

That decline is due to the use of gillnets, large vertical nets that fishermen leave in the water to collect the totoaba whose bladders are important in traditional Chinese medicine, The Guardian explained.

Mexico banned fishing with gillnets in 2015, but despite this, the practice has continued. The researchers found that the vaquita population declined by 48 percent in 2017 and 47 percent in 2018. Their numbers are now dangerously low.

"Based on the uncertainty inherent in the models, the number could be as few as six," Thomas told The Guardian.

But Thomas also told Vice that the animals were not doomed as long as the political will to stop illegal fishing could be generated in time. The vaquitas' habitat is small enough to monitor effectively, and the animals are otherwise healthy.

"There are many instances of other species that recover from low population numbers," Thomas told Vice. "If we stopped illegal fishing, they could bounce back. It's not a reason at the moment to give up."

Sea Shepherd, a marine conservation group that actively works to help vaquitas by dredging up nets, also expressed hope.

"The important takeaway is that they're still out there," the group's science department coordinator Eva Hidalgo told The Guardian. "No matter how low the numbers are, there's still hope for the species if we manage to keep them safe. Sea Shepherd is doing as much as possible to ensure the area remains net-free. In recent years we have seen two vaquita calves, so they can be saved. As long as there is one vaquita left, we are going to continue to fight for them."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The first peer-reviewed research into a promising coronavirus vaccine was published Thursday. Javier Zayas Photography / Moment / Getty Images

The world has reached a grim milestone with the number of confirmed coronavirus cases reported by the Johns Hopkins University tracker passing one million.

Read More Show Less
Deserted view of NH24 near Akshardham Temple on day nine of the 21-day nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus on April 2, 2020 in New Delhi, India. Raj K Raj / Hindustan Times via Getty Images

India is home to 21 of the world's 30 most polluted cities, but recently air pollution levels have started to drop dramatically as the second-most populated nation endures the second week of a 21-day lockdown amidst coronavirus fears, according to The Weather Channel.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A Unicef social mobilizer uses a speaker as she carries out public health awareness to prevent the spread and detect the symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus by UNICEF at Mangateen IDP camp in Juba, South Sudan on April 2. ALEX MCBRIDE / AFP / Getty Images

By Eddie Ndopu

  • South Africa is ground zero for the coronavirus pandemic in Africa.
  • Its townships are typical of high-density neighbourhoods across the continent where self-isolation will be extremely challenging.
  • The failure to eradicate extreme poverty is a threat beyond the countries in question.
Read More Show Less
The outside of the Food and Drug Administration headquarters in White Oak, Md. on Nov. 9, 2015. Al Drago / CQ Roll Call

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of two malarial drugs to treat and prevent COVID-19, the respiratory infection caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, despite only anecdotal evidence that either is proven effective in treating or slowing the progression of the disease in seriously ill patients.

Read More Show Less
Some speculate that the dissemination of the Antarctic beeches or Nothofagus moorei (seen above in Australia) dates to the time when Antarctica, Australia and South America were connected. Auscape / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

A team of scientists drilled into the ground near the South Pole to discover forest and fossils from the Cretaceous nearly 90 million years ago, which is the time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, as the BBC reported.

Read More Show Less