Published On: Mon, Dec 29th, 2014

$37 million USD program to protect world’s most endangered mammal species

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The vaquita (Phocoena sinus) is a rare species of porpoise. It is endemic to the northern part of the Gulf of California. The estimated number of individuals dropped below 100 in 2014, putting it in imminent danger of extinction. Since the baiji (Lipotes vexillifer) is believed to have gone extinct by 2006, the vaquita has taken on the title of the most endangered cetacean in the world.

The word “vaquita” is Spanish for little cow. Other names include cochito, desert porpoise, Gulf of California harbor porpoise, Gulf of California porpoise, and gulf porpoise.

Vaquitas are the smallest and most endangered species of the cetacean order and as we said before, their natural habitat is the northern end of the Gulf of California (near San Felipe).

The vaquita is stocky and has a classic porpoise shape. The species is distinguishable by the dark rings surrounding their eyes, patches on their lips, and a line that extends from their dorsal fins to their mouth. Their back is a dark grey that fades to a white underside. As vaquitas mature, the shades of grey lighten.

Vaquita Marina (Photo: Google)

Vaquita Marina (Photo: Google)

The Mexican federal government has recently proposed a US $37 million compensation plan that would ban gillnet fishing in waters inhabited by the world’s most endangered mammal species.

Conservation groups have been urging action to preserve the vaquita marina, a small porpoise found only in the upper Sea of Cortéz, which is being picked up as bycatch by fishermen going after the totoaba, for which there is a strong market in China.

The Cetacean Specialist Group (CSG), a sub-group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, estimated in August that only 97 vaquitas remain in existence, and their survival is threatened by some 600 small gillnet fishboats.

Google Earth image shows fishing activity inside the reserve, whose boundaries are marked in white

Google Earth image shows fishing activity inside the reserve, whose boundaries are marked in white

The government’s new initiative would compensate fishermen who stop using nets, according to a report by the Associated Press, and could take effect in a couple of months.

The CSG says aerial photographs taken December 5 over the vaquita refuge in the Sea of Cortéz show 90 small gillnet boats inside its boundaries; three are deploying nets and 10 are recovering them. Another four nets are unattached to a boat.

– Source: http://mexiconewsdaily.com/

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