Featured Image Credit: Notimex
By Kira Krall
The Vaquita is a small cetacean that’s in big trouble. NOAA recently discovered that there are only 30 of them left in the wild. The species is a victim of illegal gillnetting in the extreme northern end of the Gulf of California. Vaquitas call the Gulf home and cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The vaquitas are about the same size as the target species of these gillnets, so they end up getting caught in the net and drowning.
Defending the innocent porpoises against the killer gillnets was recently met with violence. Inspectors from the office for environmental protection had 15 of their vehicles vandalized or overturned by dozens of angry fishermen. The officers escaped unscathed but are filing criminal charges.
So the only option now is to couple gillnet bans with capturing some remaining vaquita and keeping them in a guarded area until the Gulf is safe again. While it may seem cruel amid the movement to free cetaceans from captivity, this is the only option to secure the vaquita’s survival.
Figures from captive breeding programs around the world have proven that caring for wild animals and ensuring they leave with their survival skills intact is costly. The California condor program cost over 35 million dollars since its inception in 1987. While that’s a small price to pay for the survival of a species, the money has to come from somewhere.
The Consortium for Vaquita Conservation, Protection, and Recovery (Vaquita CPR) is a project under the National Marine Mammal Foundation that is raising these emergency funds to get the surviving vaquita out of a veritable warzone. The Government of Mexico has already spent $100 million on vaquita conservation and will commit $3 million for the May 2017 capture plan. Money from agencies in the United States and Europe will also go towards Vaquita CPR.
Watch the vaquita’s story below, courtesy of Vaquita CPR and Wayne Phillips of Dolphin Adventure.