The Esperanza is in the Gulf of California right now, patrolling the waters to document the continued and illegal presence of gill-nets. These fishing nets are mostly responsible for the rapidly declining numbers of vaquitas – the most endangered porpoise in the world. There are as few as 57 vaquitas left, down from around 200 in 2012.
A vaquita in the Gulf of California. 19 October, 2008. NOAA/Wikimedia Commons.
The vaquitas get caught up in these nets that are set to trap another endangered species called the totoaba. The totoaba's bladder is seen as a delicacy in China, and extremely attractive to smugglers. It can be sold for up to HKD 5 million (USD 645,000), according to a source in a Greenpeace East Asia investigation from May 2015.
Despite the two-year moratorium on destructive gill-net fishing put in place by the Mexico government in early April, the protected area is still at risk.
Gill-nets in the Gulf of California. 17 July 2015.
Greenpeace is urging the authorities to strengthen their enforcement of the marine reserve and demanding Hong Kong authorities create a task force aimed at protecting endangered species from being smuggled. The United States has also committed to strengthen customs to crackdown on illegal wildlife trade, but as in Mexico, enforcement is still weak.
The Esperanza will remain in the Gulf until the end of the month, and will continue to bear witness to the endangered vaquitas' plight. So far they have found three nets.
Follow the Esperanza's journey and crew here, and become an ocean defender, join #misionvaquita today!
Maïa Booker is a Multimedia Editor for the Americas at Greenpeace USA.