- Date: May 15, 2017
With an estimated 30 or fewer remaining individuals, the vaquita are the focus of WWF’s new report calling for immediate, collective action to save the species from extinction. Fondly known as the “panda of the sea” for its distinctive markings, the vaquita is endemic to the Upper Gulf of California. Unsustainable fishing and illegal wildlife trafficking, driven by the demand for the bladder of the totoaba, another critically endangered species native to the region, has driven its population plummet.
The tools of choice for many of gulf’s fishermen include gillnets, which greatly increase the average catch size. Gillnets have caused a significant decline in many ecologically important species and are the number one cause of the vaquita’s decline. For this reason and others, the Mexican government placed a two-year ban on gillnets. Failure by the Mexican government to enforce the ban has resulted in unabated gillnet use, exacerbating declines and contributing to the Gulf of California’s status as a threatened World Heritage site.
Prepared for WWF by Dalberg, Vanishing vaquita: saving the world’s most endangered marine mammal comes just before the two-year ban is due to expire at the end of May. The report calls on the Mexican government to immediately implement and enforce a permanent ban on all gillnets and remove all ghost nets to prevent any bycatch of vaquita. The report also calls on the US and Chinese governments to collaborate with Mexico to halt the illegal transport and sale of totoaba products, which follow an illegal trade route from Mexico through the United States to China. Collective action from governments, World Heritage and CITEs Parties and greater civil society is our only hope for protecting the last remaining vaquita and the outstanding biodiversity of their Gulf of California home.