Sea Shepherd signed an agreement with the Mexican govenrment on Tuesday, October 3, to expand the protection zone for the vaquita porpoise, the most endangered marine mammal in the world.
The conservation group provides support to the Mexican Navy in the removal of illegal gillnets that drown this animal.
They pointed out that the increase will allow the work area in the Gulf of California to be extended by about 60% towards the west and northwest.
The Sea of Cortés is the only place in the world where the vaquita lives.
The species cannot remain or reproduce in captivity.
The deal came after the Mexican Navy announced in August that it planned to increase the area where it sinks concrete blocks topped with metal hooks to trap the gill nets that are killing the vaquita marina.
They began sinking them in the Gulf of California in 2022.
To hook these illegal devices used for fishing Totoaba, a fish considered a prized delicacy in China and which costs thousands of dollars per kilo.
The concrete blocks snag and ruin the expensive nets used to fish the Tototaba.
This is intended to discourage illegal fishermen from putting their equipment at risk in the “zero tolerance zone”.
The “zero tolerance zone” is an irregular quadrilateral that is considered the last refuge of the vaquita.
It is so named because it is the place where the blocks have been sunk so far and where patrols are most intense, and all fishing is prohibited.
Although Sea Shepherd and the Navy are looking to expand the area because something strange happened when scientists set sail in May on the most recent sighting expedition of this mammal.
They found that most of the 16 sightings, some may be repeats of the same animal, occur at the edge, and in some cases just outside the “zero tolerance” zone.
The Navy revealed that it will negotiate with the fishing community of San Felipe, Baja California, to expand the zero tolerance zone.
The fishermen claim that the government has not lived up to its promises to make compensation payments for the loss of income due to the net ban in the area.
They also claimed that it has done little to provide better fishing equipment that is more environmentally friendly.
According to specialists, the most recent sightings suggest that between 10 and 13 vaquitas remain in the area, a number similar to that reported on the last such expedition in 2021.
The latest actions for the conservation of the #VaquitaMarina have been “the most successful in recent years,” said Pritam Singh of @SeaSheperd during the signing of the collaboration agreement with @SEMAR_mx, which I witnessed along with @Conapesca, to continue protecting the species.
- Esteban Moctezuma Barragan (@emoctezumab) October 3, 2023
Asistimos a la firma de convenio de colaboración entre @SEMAR_mx y @seashepherd para la conservación de la #VaquitaMarina, junto al @AlmiranteSrio Rafael Ojeda y el Embajador de México en EUA, @emoctezumab.— Octavio Almada (@OctavioAlmada1) October 4, 2023
Trabajando por la Sustentabilidad en el Alto Golfo de California. pic.twitter.com/5Yb5VGV4c5
#COMUNICADO | Las comunidades y @GobiernoMX buscan proteger a la vaquita marina, la totoaba y el ecosistema del Alto Golfo de California, a la par de desarrollar un sector pesquero sustentable que permita a las familias de la región vivir de la actividad que han desempeñado por… pic.twitter.com/OygYt5yDCz— SEMARNAT México (@SEMARNAT_mx) October 3, 2023