WWF Position on the Vaquita CPR (Conservation, Protection, and Recovery) Plan

On October 12, Mexico’s government, with the support of Mexican and international experts and scientists, will begin an unprecedented effort to save the vaquita, the world’s most critically endangered marine mammal. This project, known as Vaquita CPR (Conservation, Protection, and Recovery), seeks to rescue and temporarily relocate the remaining vaquitas to an ocean sanctuary in the Upper Gulf of California, with the end goal of returning the vaquitas to their natural habitat once the primary threat to their survival – drowning in gillnets – has been eliminated. 

WWF supports Vaquita CPR as a bold and necessary strategy within wider comprehensive efforts to save the vaquita, whose population has plummeted to fewer than 30 individuals. 

“Although CPR faces a lot of uncertainty and is highly risky, WWF recognizes it as a necessary action to save the vaquita from extinction,” said Jorge Rickards, CEO of WWF-Mexico. “WWF supports CPR with the sole aim of returning a healthy vaquita population to the wild, and as such our primary focus will continue to be ensuring a healthy, gillnet-free Upper Gulf of California where both wildlife and local communities can thrive. We remain hopeful that together with all stakeholders, we will see success in both the CPR and on-the-ground conservation efforts.”  

While WWF will not participate directly in the vaquita capture and relocation efforts, as it is not within the organization’s area of expertise, it will continue to support ongoing work which directly benefits CPR and vaquita in the wild, including:

  • The acoustic monitoring system, which is crucial to help locate the remaining vaquitas. This monitoring has been supported since 2012 by WWF and operated by the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change of Mexico (INECC) to help estimate the vaquita’s population, and is essential to measure effectiveness in vaquita conservation.
  • WWF will also continue to participate in the retrieval of lost or abandoned “ghost” nets, many of them illegal, which drift aimlessly and continue to entangle and kill vaquitas and other marine species. As part of this effort WWF is now supporting the use of side-scan sonar. This technology will help to detect ghost nets more efficiently to ensure a gillnet-free environment for the vaquitas, and the US Navy dolphins that will help to locate them. 

Both the acoustic monitoring and the net retrieval are conducted with the help and experience of local fishers.