As marine species face more challenges to their livelihood than ever, the small vaquita continues to inch nearer to extinction. A new estimate now suggests that there are only 12 of the porpoises left in the ocean.
The vaquita are found in the Gulf of California and have been a hot topic of conservation in the last couple years. In November of 2017, conservation efforts to save the vaquita used military trained dolphins and to bring them into captivity for breeding. The program abruptly ended with the death of a breeding female while in the captivity of humans. At that time, there was a reported 30 vaquita alive but that number appears to be drastically lower.
The fall of the vaquita has been related to the illegal trade of the totoaba fish. The totoaba’s bladder is worth a fortune in China, with bladders fetching up to $20,000 per kilogram each on the Chinese black market. The swim bladder of the totoaba is used in Chinese medicine.
Illegal fishing of the totoaba uses gill nets to trap the totoaba, resulting in the accident catch and death of vaquita’s
“My current sources confirmed to me that we are now talking about a dozen vaquitas left in the Sea of Cortez,” explained Andrea Crosta of the Elephant Action League, a watchdog group that works along the Gulf of California monitoring the fisheries, to Mongabay. “The scientists are using sonic buoys to count them, through echolocation, and numbers are now really low.”
The vaquita is the world’s smallest porpoise. The small animal can only be found at the very top of the Gulf of California, where it stays close to shorelines catching small fish.
The hope for the vaquita is very grim and is a byproduct of politicians and law enforcement over-looking the illegal fishing practices for years. If the species is to leave us, it is vital to remember what greed can do to wildlife and we must do everything to protect future species that are vulnerable.