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Floating sea pen designed to hold captured vaquitas. Kerry Coughlin / National Marine Mammal Foundation

Endangered Mexican Vaquita Dies After Rescue Effort

By Mike Gaworecki

Last month, the government of Mexico launched a last-ditch effort to save the critically endangered vaquita, a small porpoise known to reside only in the Gulf of California.

A team of marine mammal experts assembled by the Mexican government created a project called Vaquita Conservation, Protection and Recovery (VaquitaCPR) that aims to capture the remaining 30 vaquitas (Phocoena sinus) and keep them safe in specially built floating "sea pens" until the species' survival is no longer threatened by the illegal trade and fishing activities that have driven them to the brink of extinction.

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A short-finned pilot whale hangs lifelessly in a California drift gillnet. NOAA

Whales, Sea Turtles Threatened by Trump Administration Proposal

The Trump administration proposed a rule Tuesday to federalize regulation of drift gillnets used to catch swordfish on the West Coast. The rule would end California's right to prevent the deadly entanglements of sea turtles, whales and dolphins in these underwater, mile-long nets.

The Obama administration last year proposed a rule that would shut down the fishery for two years if two large whales or sea turtles were harmed by the nets, but the Trump administration withdrew that proposed rule in June. Legislation to phase out drift gillnets was introduced in California in 2014 and 2016, and the new federal rule would preempt such efforts in the future.

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Scientists releasing the calf back into the wild. VaquitaCPR

First Vaquita Rescued in Bid to Save the Porpoise From Extinction

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.

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Trader Joe's Stops Buying Mexican Shrimp After Pressure to Protect Vaquita

Conservation organizations announced Wednesday that Trader Joe's has declared it will stop buying shrimp from Mexico. The popular grocery store chain's decision follows pressure from organizations behind the Boycott Mexican Shrimp campaign, launched earlier this year to save the vaquita, the world's smallest porpoise, from decades of decline due to entanglement in shrimp fishing gear.

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Thomas A. Jefferson

Mexico Launches 'Risky' Vaquita Roundup to Prevent Extinction of Tiny Porpoise

Wildlife officials in Mexico next week will attempt to capture and protect some of the last vaquita on Earth in a desperate effort to save these small porpoises from extinction. The operation in the Gulf of California, scheduled to begin Oct. 12, will use trained U.S. Navy dolphins to locate vaquita, whose numbers have dwindled by 90 percent in the past five years. Fewer than 30 remain alive today.

"We support this last-ditch effort to save the vaquita from extinction, but it shouldn't be used as an excuse to allow fishing to continue in its habitat," said Alex Olivera, the Center for Biological Diversity's Mexico representative. "These beautiful animals deserve to live free in the Gulf of California, but that will never happen until the Mexican government eliminates the illegal gillnet fishing that has driven these porpoises to the very brink of extinction."

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Vaquita killed in gill net fishery for totoaba in El Golfo de Santa Clara, Sonora, Mexico. Christian Faesi / Omar Vidal

China, Mexico and U.S. Target Illegal Totoaba Trade to Save Nearly Extinct Vaquita

As the first trilateral meeting of the governments of China, Mexico and the U.S. on illegal totoaba trade came to an end Friday, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) urged swift action to halt the trafficking of totoaba swim bladders and save the vaquita.

The world's most endangered marine mammal—the vaquita porpoise—is teetering on the brink of extinction as individuals are trapped as bycatch in gillnets cast illegally to capture totoaba—also a critically endangered species.

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Marcia Moreno-Baez / Marine Photobank

Lawsuit Filed to Protect Whales, Sea Turtles From Drowning in Drift Gillnets

Oceana filed a lawsuit in federal court in California late Wednesday challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service's decision to withdraw a proposed rule that would have protected endangered species, including whales and sea turtles, and taken an important step forward in efforts to clean up one of the nation's dirtiest fisheries—drift gillnets targeting swordfish off California. The rule would have required an immediate closure of the fishery if limits on the injury or death of nine protected species were reached.

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Only 30 Left in the Wild: Saving the Nearly Extinct Vaquita

In one of the longest campaigns in Sea Shepherd's history, Operation Milagro III concluded its six-month operation in Mexico's Gulf of California to protect the near-extinct vaquita porpoise and the endangered totoaba bass.

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A short-finned pilot whale hangs lifelessly in a California drift gillnet. NOAA

Trump Administration Denies Protection for Endangered Species Killed by Gillnets

The new federal administration withdrew a proposed rule Monday that would have protected endangered species—including whales, dolphins and sea turtles—caught and killed in the drift gillnet fishery targeting swordfish off California. Monday's decision demonstrates the administration's blatant disregard for recommendations of its own fishery advisors and reverses course on commitments made by the previous administration.

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