The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Endangered Mexican Vaquita Dies After Rescue Effort
By Mike Gaworecki
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.
Late last month, scientists with VaquitaCPR took the first of the marine mammals into captivity. Though the 6-month-old calf became so stressed by its capture that the team quickly chose to release it back into the wild, Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, a scientist with the Mexican government who heads the VaquitaCPR program, suggested that the fact that they were able to successfully find and capture a vaquita at all was an encouraging sign.
This past weekend, however, it was announced that another vaquita—a breeding-age female—was taken into captivity and subsequently died.
"A mature female vaquita, not pregnant or lactating, had been caught and transported successfully late in the afternoon on Saturday in the Northern Gulf of California and was taken to a specially-modified floating sea pen known as El Nido, or The Nest," according to a statement from VaquitaCPR. "From the moment of capture, the vaquita was under constant care and observation for its health and safety."
Marine mammal veterinarians that were monitoring the vaquita determined that it, too, had become stressed, to the point that its condition was deteriorating enough that once again the call was made to release the animal.
"The release attempt was unsuccessful and life saving measures were administered," VaquitaCPR reported. "Despite the heroic efforts of the veterinary team, the vaquita did not survive."
The vaquita population has been decimated by gillnet fishing in the Gulf of California, though they are only an incidental bycatch. The true target of the gillnets is another critically endangered species, the totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi), whose swim bladders are in high demand in some Asian countries, especially China, where they are believed to have medicinal benefits. Despite the lack of scientific evidence showing that the swim bladders (also known as maws) have any medical properties whatsoever, they can fetch prices more than $9,000 per pound.
So lucrative is the illegal trade in totoaba maws that organized crime syndicates are getting involved, according to a recent report that concluded the trafficking of the swim bladders has become a security issue in addition to a conservation problem.
Though they aren't the primary target species, vaquita become entangled in the gillnets all the same, causing them to drown.
Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto announced a two-year gillnet ban throughout the vaquita's range in the Upper Gulf of California in April 2015, as well as enhanced enforcement of the ban by a multi-agency task force led by the Mexican Navy and compensation for fishermen and other industries that might lose income due to the ban. A permanent ban on gillnet fishing went into effect in July 2017, but the practice continues more or less unabated today.
In response to the death of the breeding-age female this past weekend, some environmentalists are calling for VaquitaCPR's capture program to be shut down immediately, saying it is too risky an endeavor given how few of the porpoises are left.
For instance, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) said in a statement that, though VaquitaCPR was born "out of a desperate, yet well-intentioned, desire to save the species, we believe that given the extreme risks involved, the vaquita capture plans must be brought to an immediate halt. These tiny porpoises do not respond well to the stress of capture, and not a single additional vaquita should be deliberately put in danger in this way."
Instead, AWI said, the Mexican government should further increase enforcement efforts throughout the Upper Gulf of California in order to bring an end to illegal gillnet fishing once and for all. The ban on gillnets issued by Mexico, AWI noted, provides exemptions for the area's corvina and Spanish mackerel gillnet fisheries, and does not prohibit the manufacture, sale or possession of the nets.
"Unless illegal fishing is ended through rigorous and stepped-up enforcement, and gillnets can no longer be found in the Upper Gulf, the regulations of the ban will remain inadequate to save the vaquita from extinction," AWI said.
Requests for comment from VaquitaCPR were not immediately returned. But, in the statement announcing the death of the female vaquita this past weekend, VaquitaCPR noted that "The risk of losing a vaquita during field operations was always acknowledged as a possibility, but it was determined that it was unacceptable to stand by and watch the vaquita porpoise disappear without a heroic attempt at rescue."
Together with Mexican government officials and an independent panel created specifically for this purpose, VaquitaCPR's scientists said in the statement that they will "carefully review the events of the past 24 hours and determine how best to proceed."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
- Beat the COVID-19 Blues With These Wildlife and Nature Livecams ... ›
- Bald Eagles Are Still Dying From Lead Poisoning - EcoWatch ›
- Ospreys' Recovery From Pollution and Shooting Is a Global ... ›
The office may never look the same again. And the investment it will take to protect employees may force many companies to go completely remote. That's after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new recommendations for how workers can return to the office safely.
- Trump Admin Rejects CDC Reopening Guidelines - EcoWatch ›
- Trump Labor Department Encourages States to Report Workers ... ›
- White House Ordered Coronavirus Meetings Be Classified - EcoWatch ›
Scientists and art historians are studying art for signs of climate change and to better understand the ways Western culture's relationship to nature has been altered by it, according to the BBC.
- Climate Change, Inspired By Banksy - EcoWatch ›
- Artists and Activists Rise to Fight Climate Change - EcoWatch ›
By Richard Connor
The University of Southern Denmark on Wednesday announced that its researchers have developed the world's first fully automatic robot capable of carrying out throat swabs for COVID-19.
Before you pour a glass of wine, feel the weight of the bottle in your hand. Would you notice if it were a few ounces lighter? Jackson Family Wines is betting that you won't.
After a minor setback, a new era in space travel and tourism is set to launch this weekend.
When the SpaceX shuttle launches its private spacecraft, the Crew Dragon, with NASA astronauts in tow, it will mark the beginning of commercialized space exploration. SpaceX
NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will man the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the International Space Station. NASA
- SpaceX Launches and Lands World's First Recycled Rocket ... ›
- Dear Elon Musk: Your Dazzling Mars Plan Overlooks Some Big ... ›
- Everything you need to know about SpaceX's historic astronaut launch ›
- Crew Dragon Launch Day Timeline: From Suit up to Docking with ... ›
- Updates to Coverage of NASA SpaceX Commercial Crew Test Flight ... ›
- SpaceX's first ever commercial space flight a pit stop on Elon Musk's ... ›
- SpaceX will launch private citizens into orbit - The Verge ›
Former Federal Reserve Governor Rebukes Fed for Using Covid-19 Funds to Bail Out Fossil Fuel Industry
By Eoin Higgins
A former Federal Reserve board of governors member on Thursday called on her former colleagues to stop using Covid-19 relief funds to bail out the "dying" fossil fuel industry, calling the decision a threat to the planet's climate and a misguided use of taxpayer money.
<iframe width="100%" height="150" scrolling="no" class="rm-shortcode twitter-embed-1266004825050939393" id="twitter-embed-1266004825050939393" lazy-loadable="true" src="/res/community/twitter_embed/?iframe_id=twitter-embed-1266004825050939393&created_ts=1590674046.0&screen_name=collinrees&text=The+last+thing+the+Fed+should+be+doing+is+bailing+one+of+world%27s+riskiest+industries+%E2%80%94+fossil+fuels.%0A%0AWe+know+Big+O%E2%80%A6+https%3A%2F%2Ft.co%2Fu4d5SoHy83&id=1266004825050939393&name=Collin+Rees" frameborder="0" data-rm-shortcode-id="a0e370c95211a3c2f9a65eda5a075be6"></iframe>
<iframe width="100%" height="150" scrolling="no" class="rm-shortcode twitter-embed-1266068654724132864" id="twitter-embed-1266068654724132864" lazy-loadable="true" src="/res/community/twitter_embed/?iframe_id=twitter-embed-1266068654724132864&created_ts=1590689264.0&screen_name=Western_Values&text=Oil%2C+gas%2C+and+coal+companies+are+set+to+receive+billions+in+federal+aid+from+both+the+%23PPP+and+%23CARESAct.+Many+of+t%E2%80%A6+https%3A%2F%2Ft.co%2FmX370hwkg1&id=1266068654724132864&name=Western+Values+Project" frameborder="0" data-rm-shortcode-id="c000bc798f2c320613914689edb3c330"></iframe>
- The $88 Billion Fossil Fuel Bailout for Oil, Gas and Coal Exploration ... ›
- Fossil Fuel Firms With Ties to Trump Administration Get Small ... ›
- Big Oil Taking $1.9 Billion in CARES Act Tax Breaks - EcoWatch ›