Thomas A. Jefferson
Director of VIVA Vaquita
Last week, CIRVA (the Mexican government’s recovery committee for the vaquita) released its latest report, resulting from a meeting of the committee in February 2019. The report made it clear that illegal gillnet fishing is continuing, maybe even increasing, enforcement is not working, violence against net-removal operations has escalated, and the vaquita population has dwindled to an estimated 10 individuals (with high confidence that the true number is between 6 and 22; as of mid-2018)! Additionally, a dead vaquita was found just last week. The situation is exceedingly dire, and the new Mexican administration must take bold and immediate action for the vaquita to have even a slight chance of survival.
This is, without a doubt, bad news. In the face of all this, some people and organizations seem to be giving up hope for the vaquita. However, the CIRVA report also makes it clear that there is still a chance for the species to be saved. Net removal operations are continuing (despite the threat of violence), and new evidence suggests that vaquitas can give birth annually (this is good news, as previously, we thought they could only have a calf every other year).
CIRVA is not giving up, Sea Shepherd is not giving up, and neither are we… We at VIVA Vaquita feel that if there is even one male and one female vaquita left alive, there is a chance (however remote) that the species can make it. We want to do all we can to make this chance a reality, and so we continue our efforts.
We are working with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., to open an exhibit on the vaquita and the totoaba, hopefully sometime in the first part of this year. This will expose thousands of people each week to the plight of these endangered species.
On Saturday, 6 July 2019, we will have our annual International Save the Vaquita Day, with venues all across the USA, and others in Canada, Mexico, and even some overseas. This is a day dedicated to recognizing the precarious state of the vaquita, and working to motivate others to get involved in helping to spread the message of hope, and help in our efforts to stave off extinction for this precious animal. Our motto this year is “Extinction is Avoidable” and we truly believe in that notion. Please do not give up on the vaquita, and help us to make 2019 the year that the trajectory of this species does a 180° turn and begins to recover. We need your help now more than ever, as we make a final push to ensure that we do not lose the beautiful desert porpoise of the Sea Cortez, Mexico’s “Panda of the Sea”.
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).