VivaVaquita.org was conceived on 9 September 2009 by concerned researchers and educators from three nonprofit organizations: Cetos Research Organization, Save The Whales, and the American Cetacean Society, Monterey Bay Chapter. Later, we were joined by others with an interest in vaquita conservation: ACS National and other local chapters, Oceanographic Environmental Research Society (OERS), the Muskwa Club, and V-Log.
In order to save this Critically Endangered species we realize we must work together and hope more organizations and individuals will join us in our campaign to Save The Vaquita.
¡VIVA Vaquita! is a coalition of like-minded scientists, educators, and conservationists, who strive to increase the attention given to the vaquita, the World's most endangered marine mammal species. Our goals and mission are to generate awareness of the vaquita and to promote a healthy Upper Gulf of California ecosystem. We conduct research, public awareness and education activities to bring this about. Ultimately, we aim to help save the vaquita from extinction, and to do so in a way that also provides long-term benefits to the fisherman and other residents who live around the Gulf of California, Mexico.
¡VIVA Vaquita! works collaboratively with many other organizations (such as various NGOs, museums, aquaria, foundations, and governmental organizations) and individuals to carry out work aimed at helping to save the vaquita from extinction. Our work includes education, public awareness, research, and occasional lobbying. Below are a few examples of some of our major current programs.
International Save the Vaquita Day
This is now our major effort each year. The first Saturday after the 4th of July has been designated as International Save the Vaquita Day. This is an annual event similar to Earth Day, but with a specific focus on raising awareness and appreciation of the world’s most endangered marine mammal, the vaquita. Events around the globe direct the attention of people to the plight of this tiny porpoise, and what needs to be done to save it from extinction. There are booths, games, music, free prizes, educational brochures, inspirational talks, face painting, and several life-size models of vaquitas on hand to draw attention to and appreciation of the vaquita. The primary goal is to make as many people as possible aware of the vaquita’s plight, and spur them to act. Each year, we have a simple message for folks about what they can do to help (this year’s has to do with making the gillnet ban permanent). The event is designed to be fun, as well as educational, and kid-friendly!
Conferences, Meetings, and Environmental Festivals
We set up booths at several national and international marine mammal-oriented conferences and workshops each year, and also at outdoor fairs. We use our life-size, anatomically-accurate models of vaquitas to attract people to the booth, where we answer their questions and educate them about the vaquita. We request their help in using any specific skills and connections they might have to aid in vaquita conservation efforts. Donations and book ‘sales’ help to provide funding for our other work.
¡VIVA Vaquita! works through our partner, Save the Whales, to conduct school programs on marine conservation, with a big emphasis on the vaquita, mostly at schools in the central California area (where there is a large Hispanic population). This helps educate the next generation, not just about the vaquita, but also about the importance of a healthy marine environment, in general. Many hundreds of such programs have been conducted so far.
We organize periodic expeditions to the Upper Gulf of California to conduct research on and obtain photos/video of the vaquita, and to document their conservation situation. We have conducted such expeditions in 2008, 2010, 2013, and 2015, and we were able to obtain the first high-quality images of vaquitas in their natural habitat. These have been indispensible, and have been used widely in conservation efforts by us and many other organizations.
Largely through our website, letter-writing efforts, and petition drives, we lobby the Mexican, US, and other governments to develop better programs to conserve the vaquita, and to work cooperatively to stop mortality in fisheries. For instance, in 2015 we pushed hard for the Mexican gillnet ban, and now are working to get Mexico to make it permanent and to dramatically improve enforcement efforts. We have also been lobbying for California's Vaquita-Friendly Fish Products bill, AB 1151, which aims to ban imports into California of products that are harmful to the vaquita.
Providing Accurate Information
It is easy to find information that is inaccurate, biased, or out-of-date. Through our website, we provide current information on vaquita status, including a running counter of the estimated number of vaquitas left on the planet. We also have a Resources page on our website, which lists virtually every paper or book ever published on the vaquita, and provides links to many of these references. The list is updated regularly.
Book Rescue and Redistribution
We ‘rescue’ marine mammal books, reprints, and journals from their fate in the trash or recycle bin. These references are then made available to colleagues, who will use and appreciate them, and any funds raised (not actually sales, but donations in exchange for the books) go directly into our vaquita conservation efforts. This ends up being a win/win situation for all.
Photos taken under permit (Oficio No. DR/488/08 from the Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturale Protegidas (CONANP/Secretaría del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT), within a natural protected area subject to special management and decreed as such by the Mexican Government. This work was made possible thanks to the collaboration and support of the Coordinador de Investigación y Conservación de Mamíferos Marinos at the Instituto Nacional de Ecología (INE).