As you know, 2017 is the Year of the Vaquita. WhaleTimes has been celebrating all year. If you don’t know about this beautiful creature, it is a porpoise that is only found in the Sea of Cortez in the Gulf of California. This shy porpoise has unusual and pretty facial markings and sleek bodies. (Read more about Vaquita)
It is amazing and heartbreaking to think that scientists didn’t even know vaquitas existed until the 1950s. Yet today, they are the most endangered whale in the world. Less than 30 exist.
Today, scientists fear that the vaquita porpoise will become the SECOND whale species in the last decade to become extinct due to human pressures. The fear is that they will disappear forever by the year 2018. Can you even image that in two years a living creature will disappear from the face of the earth forever?
Vaquita are caught in nets set legally for shrimp and other seafood. Much of it sold in the United States. Vaquita are also caught in gill nets set illegally for totoaba (a large fish which can grow more then six feet long and can weight up to 300 pounds and is also endangered) has surged. In China, the totoaba’s swim bladder can fetch thousands of dollars so fishers find it hard to resist the temptation. The porpoise and similarly sized totoaba live in the same part of the Gulf. (Read more about Totoaba)
It is estimated that about 435 miles of legal nets are in the water every day during the fishing season. That does not include the illegal nets fishing for the totoaba.
This fall, scientists from Mexico and around the world will attempt to collect some of the remaining vaquita. They will be housed in special pens in the Gulf of California. The goal is to stop complete extinction of the species, and create a breeding group. The hope is some day when the ocean is gill net free and the black market for totoaba swim bladders is stopped, the vaquita can be released. (Read more: Vaquita Update June 2017/Courtesy Oregon Coast Aquarium)
The vaquita is a timid shy creature so it’s hard for scientists to make a visual count, let alone capture. Sightings at 300 feet is considered to be close.
Everyone needs to be aware of the plight of the vaquita porpoise for when we lose the existence of one species, we all lose. Help save ocean animals by only eating sustainably caught seafood when ordering it from your favorite restaurant or purchasing it at the store.
See you next time,
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