So few of Mexico’s vaquita porpoises remain that the international committee to protect the endangered species is preparing to catch and enclose as many as it can in a last-ditch effort to save them from extinction, experts said Thursday Dec. 15.
It will be a risky effort, because the species has never been held successfully in captivity.
According to rough estimates, only about three dozen of the world’s smallest porpoise remain in the upper Gulf of California, the only place it lives. With population numbers falling by 40 percent annually — there were 60 alive a year ago — there could now be as few as eight breeding females left.
Fishermen lured by Chinese demand for a fish that swims in the same waters have apparently defeated Mexico’s efforts to protect the vaquita in its natural habitat.
Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, chairman of the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita, said an international team is being formed to launch the capture program in the spring.
“It would involve locating them, capturing them and putting them in some kind of protective area,” Rojas-Bracho said, adding that the current plan envisions putting them in a floating enclosure or pen in a protected bay where they would not be endangered by fishing nets.
“Locating them, capturing them, there is an inherent risk to everything,” he said, noting “we have to do something, as an emergency measure.”
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