The vaquita porpoise.
How can we save them?
So, there are roughly 30 left in the wild. The vaquita, lovingly known as the panda porpoise, because of its patches, is the smallest cetacean with the smallest range. It only lives in the marine waters in Mexico, a 2,300 square kilometer area. So, why are they nearing extinction? They are bycatch for a fish called totoaba, a critically endangered fish with a special swim bladder that can be sold for $4,000 per pound in America and China which is a lot for fishermen. To illegally capture these fish the fishermen use gill nets, which trap vaquitas underwater, drowning them. These nets were band back in 2014, but with major gains and little danger of getting caught, the fishermen continue to illegally use the nets.
So, what can be done? Well, according to Viva Vaquita, a captive breeding program has too many unknowns so a long term conservation of their natural habitat was decided on. But on the 14 of October, this year, a plan is being put into action. US navy dolphins have been trained to locate vaquita porpoises and signal the capture team. Of course bottlenose dolphins are known to kill porpoises, so there is danger to this plan. Next, the vaquita will be taken to an ocean sanctuary off the coast of San Felipe -since no one has before, no one knows how they will fare in captivity. While they stay there, their habitat will be cleaned of gillnets and other dangers before their release.
The northern elephant seal was done to 30 and they came back from the brink. This can be done.
Fun fact, no images of vaquitas can be found on this website.
Photo by Kirt Edblom