Helping the World's Smallest Porpoise

Critically endangered vaquita to benefit from new fishing regulation that reduces bycatch


On June 6, the Mexican government announced it would begin phasing out drift gillnets used for shrimp fishing in the upper Gulf of California, and substituting them with more selective and vaquita-friendly fishing gear. This alternative gear—developed and tested in part by WWF—reduces bycatch of the critically endangered vaquita porpoise while allowing fishers to continue earning their livelihoods.

WWF has been working for many years to address the threat of bycatch on the vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise. At the beginning of 2013, we organized a global petition to urge the Mexican government to ban gillnets from the vaquita’s marine habitat. More than 38,000 people from 127 countries and territories participated in this effort to save the vaquita from extinction.

WWF recognizes the efforts made by the Mexican government over the years in order to save the vaquita. The recent announcement of this new fishing gear standard is a major step in vaquita conservation. WWF will now offer its support to help train fisherman on how to use the new nets.

Found only in a small area of the upper Gulf of California, Mexico, there are likely fewer than 200 vaquitas left. This little porpoise often becomes entangled and drowns in drift gillnets used by fishermen to catch fish and shrimp.

Learn more about vaquitas.

Photo 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).