Analyses of visual sightings and acoustic detections of vaquitas during the range-wide survey last September-December have now been released, suggesting that only about 60 of these tiny ‘desert porpoises’ remain on the planet. And, despite an unprecedented effort by the current Mexican administration and its many international partners (from governments, NGOs, and academic institutions to individual scientists and schoolchildren), vaquitas have continued to die in gillnets set to capture totoaba – all to obtain the prized swim bladders of these large, endangered fish that, like the vaquita, are endemic to the Gulf of California. The swim bladders are destined to be smuggled out of Mexico to enter China’s massively destructive black market for what can often seem like everything that’s left of the earth’s vanishing wildlife.
It is important to emphasize that President Peña Nieto, and especially his Environment Secretary Rafael Pacchiano, have stepped up like no previous Mexican administration to save the vaquita. Their serious, all-out efforts to stop the illegal fishing in Mexico have been undermined by intransigence on the part of Mexico’s fisheries sector together with China’s insatiable, out-of-control appetite for swim bladders.
The report from the Seventh Meeting of the Comité Internacional para la Recuperación de la Vaquita (CIRVA-7), held in early May, is now available here. It has been delivered to the Mexican Secretary of the Environment and to the IWC Scientific Committee for consideration at the annual SC meeting which begins this week in Bled, Slovenia.