In just under 60 years the Vaquita has gone from newly discovered species to the brink of extinction. This Gulf of California porpoise is rare, tiny and elusive and the most critically endangered marine mammal in the world. VaquitaCPR is a plan to save the species.
Our collaborators Profs. Philip Hammond and Len Thomas from the University of St Andrews have been working with the international team of scientists monitoring and documenting the continued rapid decline of this species. Between 1997 and 2017 gillnets have killed hundreds of vaquita. The population has declined from an estimated 600 to 30 animals. Around 40% of this decline is attributed to illegal gillnet fishing for the large, endangered totoaba.
The potential extinction of the vaquita is a human caused problem. However, other species have been saved from similar or smaller numbers and so there is hope! Dr Sam Ridgway, President of the National Marine Mammal Foundation:
“Experts from around the world have come together for the vaquita in much the same way as conservationists did to save the California condor from extinction in the 1980s.”
VaquitaCPR Rescue efforts
VaquitaCPR is a bold conservation plan led by the Mexican government (SEMARNAT), supported by the National Marine Mammal Foundation, The Marine Mammal Centre and Chicago Zoological Society. The VaquitaCPR plan is to locate, catch and house vaquitas initially in temporary sea pens with the goal of returning the animals to a gillnet-free habitat. The species would then be actively monitored following reintroduction.
An expert team are currently in the field making use of aerial and boat based survey alongside passive acoustic monitoring and US Navy trained dolphins. They have made their first successful location and capture, but taking a cautionary approach, released the animal (a calf) back to the capture location.
We hope their collective expertise will make a difference!
Of course the vaquita is just one of a number of marine mammal species which are vulnerable to human activities. If you want to read more about other at risk species and populations a good place to start would be the Marine Mammal Commission species and populations of concern topic page.
For updates on the active rescue effort follow:
Twitter @VaquitaCPR #VaquitaCPR
Images Copyright VaquitaCPR