In July 2016, President Barack Obama and President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico announced bilateral collaboration measures to protect the vaquita. As a follow up to this meeting and to the recommendations CIRVA presented in its vaquita report, Mexico's National Institute of Fisheries (INAPESCA) and WWF Mexico established an international committee of experts to further develop and urgently implement vaquita-safe fishing technologies.
The committee advises the Mexican government on improving fishing techniques not harmful to vaquita, including those that INAPESCA and WWF Mexico have together developed over the last years.
This independent committee is charged with improving existing vaquita-safe fishing technologies (such as the small trawl to catch shrimp and traps and other gear for fish) to substitute gillnets, which are currently banned in vaquita habitat in the Upper Gulf of California, the only place on Earth where the vaquita exists.
The committee is comprised of experts from Texas A&M University, NOAA South East Fisheries Center, Swedish University of Agriculture Science, Technological University of Denmark, Canada's Fisheries and Marine Institute, New England Aquarium, FAO, INAPESCA, and WWF.
A protocol and guidelines to catch shrimp with vaquita-safe technology is expected to be ready soon.
WWF has been on red alert ever since the report from the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA) estimated the vaquita population at no more than 10. In the past, WWF has helped study vaquitas and implement protective measures with the Mexican government and local partners. We have been working with Mexican scientists, government representatives, and other partners and collaborators to develop a long-term strategy for the conservation of the species.
We are now calling for urgent and immediate measures to save the last of the vaquitas.
Based on expert recommendations, WWF has called on the Mexican government to strongly enforce a ban on gillnet fisheries throughout the entire range of the species since September 2014. We also ask that the US and China help stamp out the illegal trade in totoaba products and provide enforcement support to the Mexican government, without which vaquitas will go the way of the dodo.
All vaquita photos on this page by Thomas A. Jefferson from the joint research project with the Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Coordination of the National Institute of Ecology of Mexico. Photo obtained under permit No. DR7488708 of SEMARNAT (Mexican National Commission of Protected Natural Areas).