Vaquita Success! New Protections Could Save This Endangered Porpoise

by Phil Kline

July 25, 2016

With only 60 animals remaining, the vaquita porpoise is on the brink of extinction. That's why 150,000 Greenpeace supporters have stood up to save this shy, beautiful animal. And the Mexican government just announced new protections for the vaquita. But will it be enough?

With only 60 remaining, the elusive vaquita is the most endangered porpoise in the world. © NOAA/Wikimedia Commons.

With only 60 remaining, the elusive vaquita is the most endangered porpoise in the world. © NOAA/Wikimedia Commons.

The Mexican Government has just announced new vaquita protections in the upper Gulf of California, the only place in the world where the vaquita lives.

More than 150,000 Greenpeace supporters have demanded greater protections for the vaquita, the world’s most endangered porpoise. And I want to thank all of you vaquita lovers for your help in pushing the government of Mexico to make this happen.

Only two weeks ago, John Hocevar, our Greenpeace USA oceans team leader, met with the Ambassador of Mexico here in DC. At that meeting John repeated your call for a permanent gillnet ban in vaquita habitat and now it’s a reality.

Greenpeace USA Ocean Director, John Hocevar, met with the Mexican Ambassador on July 7 while vaquita lovers rallied outside the Mexican Embassy in Washington D.C.

Greenpeace USA Oceans Director John Hocevar met with the Mexican Ambassador on July 7 while vaquita lovers rallied outside the Mexican Embassy in Washington D.C.

Banning Gillnets and Night Fishing to Save the Vaquita

Just last week, Mexico’s National Aquaculture and Fisheries Commissioner, Mario Aguilar Sánchez, told reporters that the use of all gillnets in vaquita habitat would be permanently prohibited beginning this September. Night fishing will also be banned before the end of the year. These new regulations will increase the effectiveness of the enforcement of vaquita protections as the government of Mexico works to recover the vaquita population and bring them back from the edge of extinction.

The most recent population estimate indicate there are only about 60 vaquitas remaining. The vaquitas are innocent victims, most often killed as bycatch, in an illegal gillnet fishery for totoaba fish (also endangered) swim bladders that fetch astronomical prices in the Chinese traditional medicine trade.

To Save the Vaquita, We Must Also Stand Up for Local Communities

It is important to underline that these prohibitive measures should also consider the livelihood and social opportunities that communities along the upper Gulf of California need for their development. Only by assuring that there are economic alternatives for these local communities that enable them to substitute other viable practices for totoaba fishing can the vaquita’s survival be ensured.

It’s time for some celebration over these new measures but stay tuned as there’s still plenty of work to be done before the vaquitas are out of the woods.

Phil Kline

By Phil Kline

Phil is a senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace USA. He is a recognized expert on oceans policy domestically and internationally, and has represented Greenpeace U.S. at International Whaling Commission (IWC) meetings and Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meetings around the globe.

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