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Vaquitas may disappear completely. Only 10 left

Vaquitas may disappear completely. Only 10 left

Image source: © canva, wikipedia
Anna RusakAnna Rusak,10.08.2023 12:30

The world's smallest marine mammal is going extinct. The International Whaling Commission is sounding the alarm that there are only as few as 10 such porpoises left. Is there a chance to save the species?

The Gulf of California porpoise is one of the smallest cetaceans. It is considered to be the most endangered representative of this family. The species is currently on the brink of extinction and being listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List. Unfortunately, its protection programs are still inefficient.

The vaquita porpoises are dying out fast

For the first time ever, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has issued an extinction alert for the Guld of California Harbour porpoise. The survival of this species is under serious threat, as there are only 10, maximum 12, vaquitas in the Gulf of California.

The porpoise's existence is threatened by human activities, obviously. The animals are being caught in illegally placed gillnets and then killed. What is worse, the fishermen are not after them at all. The nets are set to catch the totoaba, a fish whose swim bladder is considered a delicacy in China and can cost up to thousands of euros per kilogram.

Thus, from 600 individuals that were still alive in 1997, we have gone down to just 10 vaquitas in a few years. The International Whaling Commission points out that if we do not act now, the extinction of Gulf of Mexico Harbour porpoises is certain.

"The extinction of the vaquita is inevitable unless 100% of gillnets are substituted immediately with alternative fishing gears that protect the vaquita and the livelihoods of fishers", the IWC said in the news release as quoted by CBS News.

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How to protect the vaquitas?

Although the Mexican government has tried to stop the fishery by removing concrete blocks which are used to attach gillnets, fishermen still choose to fish illegally. The situation is urgent because there have been reports of baby porpoises.

The IWC researcher points out that at least one or even to two calves have been observed recently. The animals have not stopped reproducing, so the population still has a chance to recover.

"There is at least one brand new baby vaquita. They haven’t stopped breeding. If we can take away this one pressure, the population may recover. We can’t stop now," said Dr Lindsay Porter, vice-chair of the IWC’a scientific committee.

Source: CBS News, The Guardian

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