The most recent report from the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita shows that the situation for the vaquita has worsened and there are only 30 individuals that remain in the wild. The population has declined by 90 percent in the last 5 years, according to the scientific committee and the primary cause of death is vaquitas being caught in mesh netting used for the fishing of totoaba for commercial purposes.
The scientific committee argues that this is evidence that totoaba fishing is still occurring in the region, despite a ban on gillnet fishing that is in place until April of this year. Authorities have not yet developed long-term sustainable solutions for the vaquita and local communities in the Upper Gulf of California.
U.S. Navy-Trained Dolphins to Round Up Nearly Extinct Vaquita in Controversial Plan https://t.co/8cU8SkwXJI @Oceanwire @savingoceans— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1483653908.0
In response to announcements from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources on the forthcoming implementation of an emergency plan to save the vaquita by moving individuals to a temporary sanctuary, Greenpeace warned that there is no guarantee of the effectiveness of this measure to justify its implementation.
The environmental organization noted that there are risk factors that must be considered including that similar to most cetaceans, porpoises do not do well in captivity. The population has already been drastically exhausted, so any loss is severe and the catch will generate additional stress to the remaining animals.
The probability that the vaquita will survive, reproduce and be ready for reintroduction into its habitat is very slim. Sam Ridgway, president of the National Marine Mammal Foundation, acknowledged in the official communiqué issued by Semarnat that the odds are against the species and justified the measure on the grounds that "scientific communities feel that it is their obligation to act."
"These are desperate times for the vaquita as it staggers toward the brink of extinction. Therefore, it is not surprising that the solutions which are being suggested by those who want to save the species are also, increasingly, more desperate," said Gustavo Ampugnani, executive director of Greenpeace Mexico.
@SeaShepherdSSCS's @MVFarleyMowat Busts Six Poaching Boats in the Sea of Cortez. https://t.co/Wwa7oqJAZK @EcoWatch— Captain Paul Watson (@Captain Paul Watson)1483037158.0
The Mexican government and the international community have fundamentally failed to protect the vaquita. None of the policies implemented in the last 25 years have successfully addressed the known cause of death: totoaba fishing for lucrative international trade.
3 Vaquitas Found Dead: The Most Endangered Marine Mammal in the World https://t.co/eOUc8me8WR @CenterForBioDiv @1World1Ocean— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1459285846.0
"This drastic measure will do very little if the underlying problem—totoaba fishing and the use of gillnets—has not been solved. We know what must happen to save the vaquita in their natural habitat: cease the fishing of totoaba, not only with surveillance, but also with the application of socio-economic policies to support the region, involve communities in the protection of the vaquita and develop fishing gear that does not endanger other species," Ampugnani said.
Greenpeace regrets that measures such as capture and reproduction in captivity are being considered, despite warnings for more than two decades about the dramatic decline of the population of this marine mammal.
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.