Phocoena sinus, better known as vaquita, is an endangered porpoise that lives in the north end of the Gulf of California. At least, we think it does; as of last year, it was estimated that only about thirty of them survive. How to bring the species back is not at all clear, but one of the first steps, you’d think, would be to stop killing them:
A protected area in the upper Gulf of California has been enlarged by 45% as the latest measure in efforts to protect the endangered vaquita porpoise.
Environment Secretary Rafael Pacchiano Alemán announced [Friday] the vaquita sanctuary now takes in an area of 1,841 square kilometers.
Alejandro Olivera, Mexican representative of the Center for Biological Diversity, applauded the move, while cautioning that it may be too late:
[T]o save the vaquita [said Olivera] it is necessary to eliminate all gillnet fishing in the area of its habitat and stop the trafficking in totoaba swim bladders, an expensive delicacy in Asia and a lucrative product for both fishermen and organized crime.
Perhaps ironically, the totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi) is itself listed as “critically endangered” in the wild, though the Baja California government has authorized commercial farming of totoaba outside the upper Gulf.
While official estimates indicate that some 30 specimens remain in the wild, the environmental organization Elephant Action League (EAL) reported last month that it believed there were only about a dozen vaquitas left.
At this rate, they’ll be gone by next year.