Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

The Most Endangered Child at Our Border

Insights + Opinion

It has been heartwarming to see the vast amounts of news coverage and public attention to address the thousands of unaccompanied children arriving at our Southwest border with Mexico. As thorny as immigration issues are, our American humanity is taking hold, trying to come up with a workable solution that protects these engendered kids and their futures.

Meet the vaquita, which the Cousteau Society calls the most endangered marine mammal on the planet. The vaquita is a very small porpoise that lives in the upper reaches of the Gulf of California just below the U.S./Mexican border. Photo credit: Conservation International Mexico

And so that’s why I have just a bit of new hope about the most endangered child at our border right now that has gotten only a small fraction of news coverage and attention

This child is not human.

Meet the vaquita, which the Cousteau Society calls the most endangered marine mammal on the planet. The vaquita is a very small porpoise that lives in the upper reaches of the Gulf of California just below the U.S./Mexican border. In fact, back before the dams were built and the Colorado River still flowed into the Gulf, the vaquita may have actually swam up and over the border near Rio San Luis Colorado, Mexico and Yuma, Arizona.

But not anymore.

Due to gillnet fishing, illegal fishing of other species and the complete lack of freshwater flowing into the Gulf from the Colorado River, the International Union of Conservation of Nature has for years tracked the decline and endangerment of the vaquita. In 1997, the IUCN estimate there were just 567 vaquita living in the Gulf; just last week they estimated that only 97 vaquita are still alive. This new estimate has garnered some news attention, here in the Washington Post and here in the San Diego Union Tribune. This shy, unique creature could go completely extinct from our planet in the next two or three years.

Here’s what needs to happen:

  1. The U.S. government and the American public needs to increase the pressure on the Mexican government to ban gillnet fishing, switch to vaquita-safe trawling nets, patrol for illegal fishing in the Gulf and increase the protected habitat in the vaquita’s range.
  2. The U.S. government needs to better enforce the laws around trafficking in other endangered species, including the totoaba fish, which when it is illegally caught in the Gulf also ensnares and kills vaquita swimming nearby. Insanely, Chinese culture believes that body parts of the totoaba are an aphrodisiac, and the trafficking in totoaba body parts travels through the U.S. over to boats and airports on the West Coast towards China.
  3. The U.S. government and the American people need to better educate everyone about the consumption of fish that are gillnetted in the Gulf during which vaquita are accidentally snared and killed. Many of these gillnetted fish are sold to U.S. markets as seafood, and thus our consumption habits can help stop the destructive fishing in the Gulf that kills vaquita.

The children that are walking up to our border have eyes and voices for all of the American public to see, and our media is trained to feed that compelling story to us. The vaquita has neither—the only voice they have is what we give to them.

But America’s humanity will rise to this occasion too—I just know it will.

Help prevent the extinction of the vaquita by signing this petition.

You Might Also Like

Pacific Bluefin Tuna Population at Brink of Collapse

Bye Bye Bycatch? Smart Nets That Save Fish

New England’s Cod in Crisis

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Penguins are seen near the Great Wall station in Antarctica, Feb. 9, days after the continent measured its hottest temperature on record at nearly 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Xinhua / Liu Shiping / Getty Images

By Richard Connor

Scientists have recorded Antarctica's first documented heat wave, warning that animal and plant life on the isolated continent could be drastically affected by climate change.

Read More Show Less
The Athos I tanker was carrying crude oil from Venezuela when a collision caused oil to begin gushing into the Delaware River. U.S. Department of the Interior

A case that has bounced around the lower courts for 13 years was finally settled yesterday when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision, finding oil giant Citgo liable for a clean up of a 2004 oil spill in the Delaware River, according to Reuters.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
The buildings of downtown Los Angeles are partially obscured in the late afternoon on Nov. 5, 2019, as seen from Pasadena, California, a day when air quality for Los Angeles was predicted to be "unhealthy for sensitive groups." Mario Tama / Getty Images

The evidence continues to build that breathing dirty air is bad for your brain.

Read More Show Less
Wave power in Portugal. The oceans' energy potential is immense. Luis Ascenso, via Wikimedia Commons

By Paul Brown

The amount of energy generated by tides and waves in the last decade has increased tenfold. Now governments around the world are planning to scale up these ventures to tap into the oceans' vast store of blue energy.

Read More Show Less
Yellowstone National Park closed to visitors on March 24, 2020 because of the Covid-19 virus threat. William Campbell-Corbis via Getty Images

When the novel coronavirus started to sweep across the country, the National Park Service started to waive entrance fees. The idea was that as we started to practice social distancing, Americans should have unfettered access to the outdoors. Then the parking lots and the visitor centers started to fill up, worrying park employees.

Read More Show Less