Dead vaquita found in totoaba net

February 2019 Vaquita Update

This update summarizes net removals from February and news that also includes the first half of March.  The Report of the 11th meeting of CIRVA is summarized in an earlier news item on this website.  On 13 March a dead vaquita was found in a net by the Sea Shepherd net removal team (more details here).  The headless carcass of the female was identified as a vaquita by the University of Baja California in Ensenada using genetics and skeletal examination. With at most 22 vaquitas estimated to remain as of September 2018, the loss of this individual is very grave.

A new publication “Likely annual calving in the vaquita, Phocoena sinus: a new hope?” was published in Marine Mammal Science.

The number of net removals in February was lower than that in February 2018 but the effort this year was primarily in the last 2 weeks of the month because the Sea Shepherd ships were undergoing repairs and being modified to make them better able to withstand attacks from poachers.  Another difference between 2018 and 2019 is that net removal effort this year is being concentrated on the area where vaquitas were last seen and heard.  Like last year, 3 ships are removing nets:  the Narval (Museo de Ballena) and the Sharpie and Farley Mowat (Sea Shepherd).  A summary of efforts during 2018 was given in the December 2018 vaquita update.

December
January
February
TOTAL
Farley Mowat
41
13
6
60
Sharpie
8
8
Narval
9
10
19
TOTAL
41
22
24
87

The map below (Source: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Internal Reports, 2019) shows the locations of active nets removed through February 2019 by both the Farley Mowat, Sharpie and Narval (yellow dots for Feburary and black dots for earlier this totoaba season).  The black line shows the area of enhanced protection including both the Vaquita Refuge and the enhanced enforcement area recommended by CIRVA  last year.

 

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11th meeting of the Vaquita Recovery Team

The report of the 11th meeting of the international vaquita recovery team (CIRVA), held in La Jolla, California on 19-21 February 2019, is now available. The report recommends a series of immediate, near-term, medium-term, and long-term actions to prevent extinction of the vaquita. It calls on the Government of Mexico to do a great deal more than has been done to date to eliminate illegal fishing for totoaba, with the focus of enforcement and net-removal efforts now centered in the small area where the few remaining vaquitas have been observed (acoustically) and visually over the past six months. This is expected to be treated as a ‘Zero Tolerance Area’ where the goal is to remove any illegal net within hours of its deployment, particularly during the totoaba season, which continues through April and into early May. The report also provides updates on the acoustic monitoring program and other scientific work, net-removal efforts, development and testing of alternative fishing gear, and various socio-economic and legal issues.

 

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January 2019 Vaquita Update

January was a month marked by the violent action of illegal fishermen directed toward people engaged in net removal efforts. Press releases including video of the attacks are available here for the January 9th attack and here for the January 31st attack. Men in multiple pangas set upon the Sea Shepherd’s Farley Mowat and a Navy Defender vessel, throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails. Because of these attacks, only 7 days of net-removal effort were possible (4 for the Farley Mowat and 3 for the Museo de Ballena’s Narval). Twenty-two active totoaba nets were removed, all within the Vaquita Refuge and near where the attacks occurred.

The net-removal effort will resume because, as the totoaba spawning season advances, conditions become increasingly dangerous for the remaining vaquitas.  Through December 2018, the first month of the 2018-2019 totoaba spawning season, 41 active totoaba nets were removed by the Farley Mowat, more than were removed in December 2017.

A recap of efforts during 2018 can be found in the December 2018 vaquita update.

The map below (Source: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Internal Reports, 2019) shows the locations of active nets removed in January 2019 by both the Farley Mowat and Narval (black dots for December and yellow dots for January). The black line shows the area of enhanced protection including both the Vaquita Refuge and the enhanced enforcement area recommended by the 2018 CIRVA meeting.

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30 new IMMAs identified in the eastern Indian Ocean

Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara and Erich Hoyt, co-chairs of the IUCN SSC/WCPA Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force have announced final results from the Important Marine Mammal Area (IMMA) Workshop in the North East Indian Ocean and South East Asian Seas which was held in March 2018 in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (Borneo).

The approved IMMAs—as well as those that will remain as candidate IMMAs and areas of interest (AoI)—are now displayed on an interactive map, the IMMA e-atlas, at https://www.marinemammalhabitat.org/imma-eatlas/.

The final report of the workshop is now available for download at https://www.marinemammalhabitat.org/downloads/. There is also posted a news item summarizing the results and giving background on the IMMA programme at https://www.marinemammalhabitat.org/30-new-immas-awarded-in-the-ne-indian-ocean-and-se-asian-seas/

Meanwhile, the Task Force is shortly entering the review period for the Extended Southern Ocean IMMA process, and in early March will host the IMMA workshop for the Western Indian Ocean and Arabian Seas, in Oman.

 

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December 2018 – Vaquita update

December marks the beginning of totoaba spawning season.  As was done in the 2017/2018 spawning season, vaquita updates will be posted monthly.  In this first update, a recap of last season is given to provide context.

The 2017/2018 totoaba spawning season had 400 active totoaba nets removed and one dead vaquita found that had died of gillnet entanglement.

December
January
February
March
April
May
Total
Narval
na
2
36
20
19
1
78
Farley Mowat
2
0
9
44
69
10
134
JPD
16
27
51
5
n/a
n/a
99
Sharpie
n/a
n/a
n/a
35
51
3
89
Total
18
30
96
104
139
14
400

The map (Source: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Internal Reports. 2018) shows active nets removed from December 2017-June 4, 2018 by all net removal operations.  The black line denotes the Vaquita Refuge and the orange line the enhanced enforcement area.

The data clearly show that illegal fishing remained at a very high level in areas known to have contained vaquitas last fall.

Acoustic monitoring was conducted in the typical period from mid-June through mid-August.  An effort to photographically identify and potentially biopsy vaquitas last September resulted in seeing at least six vaquitas including two healthy calves. A CIRVA meeting scheduled for mid-February will consider these new data together with new data on net retrievals.

The data so far for net removal (through December 2018) are 41 active totoaba nets from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship Farley Mowat, which is greater than the number retrieved in December 2017 (see above).

The map (Source: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Internal Reports. 2019) shows active nets removed in December 2018 by the Farley Mowat only (black dots).  The black line shows the area of enhance protection including both the Vaquita Refuge and the enhanced enforcement area recommended by the last CIRVA meeting.

 

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