New strategy: Semar places concrete block walls to define the fishing zone.
(La Jornada) In a new strategy to avoid the extinction of the last eight vaquitas, the Secretariat of the Navy (Semar) concluded the planting of 193 concrete blocks in 225 kilometers of the zero-tolerance zone in the Upper Gulf of California, as a way to discourage the setting of nets that entangle this mammal due to illegal fishing.
The Sea of Cortés, a region considered to be highly biodiverse, is the only habitat for the world’s smallest cetacean,.and in which strategies have been established for at least two decades that have not slowed the decline of its population.
Scientists and researchers, among them Armando Jaramillo and Lorenzo Rojas, sailed in October last year on the Whale Museum’s ships Sharpie and Narval. During their expedition, they sighted eight adult whales and two calves.
The vaquita, an endemic species, is still in danger of extinction in this limited geographic distribution known as ground zero. Its main threat is the gill nets set by poachers to catch Totoaba, a species coveted because its swim bladder is traded for thousands of dollars in the Chinese market.
The fishing community of San Felipe is located south of Mexicali, where a Semar interceptor patrol set sail, 14 kilometers off the coast of the port, a buoy vessel submerged the last concrete block, weighing between two and three tons, adapted with a pair of hooks made of steel rods, in which it is hoped to retain the nets used in Totoaba fishing and where the vaquitas die entangled.
According to naval personnel, the trickiest part of the maneuver is locating the vessel to precisely install the concrete structures. Then, a crane proceeds to sink the block.
For almost three months, the crews of the ships Virgo and Sagitario placed the 193 blocks with a separation of 1.1 kilometers between each one. The inter-institutional project required an investment of 3 million 784 thousand Mexican pesos, according to the environmental impact statement authorized by Semarnat.
The project began on July 8 and since then a continuous sweep has been carried out to detect nets in zone zero with acoustic sonar.
“Surveillance is permanent, we cannot rule out that one day we do not make the sweep, and that day an incident happens,” said frigate captain Jorge Agustín Chávez García.
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