We told you a couple of months ago that the world population of the vaquita, the smallest of the porpoises, is down to about 30 due to one particular fishing technique — gillnetting — that traps them alongside desired edibles from the Gulf of California.
Tensions came to a head in March when rioters in the town of Golfo de Santa Maria burned patrol boats and attacked local environment officials. A few weeks later, across the gulf in San Felipe, hundreds of people took to the streets to protest the American conservation group Sea Shepherd, whose vessels have been patrolling the gulf since 2015 to help the Mexican Navy enforce the gillnet ban. Protesters scrawled the words “Sea Shepherd” on an empty boat and dragged it to the town’s beachside promenade, where they set it on fire and cheered and jeered as orange flames swallowed the effigy.
The remains of two vaquitas … were found in the waters off the coast of California in the span of one month.
— caracolita marina (@caracola7mares) May 12, 2017
A scheme similar to the one used to rescue the California condor is planned, but:
[The] capture plan borders on the bizarre. The group wants to enlist a “dream team” of scientists, veterinary specialists and U.S. Navy-trained dolphins, which have been taught to find underwater mines and enemy divers, to seek out vaquitas in the gulf.
There are two main problems with this plan, however. For one, no one has ever captured a vaquita alive. And as groups like Sea Shepherd and the World Wildlife Fun point out, the animals could die in the process, only furthering their plight.
There are about 435 California condors out there. The rescue plan began with, um, twenty-seven. The bird is still listed as Critically Endangered, but some of them have been released to the wild. This may be the best chance for the vaquita — if it has a chance at all.
(With thanks to Holly H.)