09 September 2008

One. Five. Zero.

Vaquita (Phocoena sinus), Critically Endangered

One. Five. Zero.

That's the estimated number of Vaquitas Marinas, or little sea cows still alive. These miniature porpoises (featured here previously), which live only in the Gulf of California, are the most endangered cetacean. If nothing is done, they are likely to become extinct within the next year or two, or sooner.

The main cause of their decline, is not habitat loss, climate change, or pollution (although these things do affect the Vaquita). The biggest threat to the survival of the Vaquita is the nets local fishermen. The nets are intended for other fish and shrimp, but an estimated 40 are caught accidentally each year. When your total population is 150, losing 40 is a big deal.

The Mexican government is pledging 16 million US dollars to pay fishermen to avoid the Vaquita's habitat or to stop fishing altogether. Some of the money will also be spent to teach fishermen alternative techniques using snares that are too small to endanger Vaquitas.

So far, about 1000 fishermen (40%) have agreed to stay out of Vaquita habitat or stop fishing altogether. This is a good start, but more is needed. With the population already so low, if the Vaquita is to make a full recovery, accidental deaths due to fishing must be reduced to zero.

Here's a great site with information about the history of the conservation of the Vaquita and the threats it faces.

Support the survival of the Vaquita (cheque only).

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