The mysterious marine world is now in the brink of losing many of its residents. The sea world consists of more species than on the land, undiscovered and unprotected. One such family is the family of vaquita porpoise, which now has less than 30 members.
Known as the “panda of the sea” because of the dark rings around its eyes, these are the world’s smallest porpoise. The 1.5 meter cetacean has rarely been seen alive.
International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA) submitted a report. It read, “The already desperate situation has worsened, despite existing conservation measures and current enforcement efforts”. The report said, “At the current rate of loss, the vaquita will likely decline to extinction by 2022, unless the current gillnet ban is maintained and effectively enforced”.
A detailed analysis from the acoustic data acquired suggests that there are only 30 vaquitas remaining in the Gulf of California, the major home for the species. Compared to 200 in 2012.
The illegal fishing of this species is a major threat to the extinction. According to the authorities, many have been dying for years in gillnets that are meant to illegally catch another endangered species, ‘totoaba’. Totoaba, especially smuggled for the dried swim bladder fetches myriads of dollars in China’s food industry.
President Enrique Pena Nieto deployed the navy to stop illegal fishing and imposed a two-year ban on gillnets. He also increased the vaquita protection area. Drones joined the effort last year.
To save these species, scientists have decided to capture them, put them in an enclosure in the Gulf, allowing them to reproduce. Vessels, small aircraft and dolphins trained by the US Navy will help locating the fishes. CIRVA chairman Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho said the program could begin in the fall, around October.
Some environmentalists oppose this. The reason is because the risk that vaquitas, which only exist in the Gulf of California, could die in the process. One of the CIRVA members said, “Believing that there are too many unknowns and maybe some ‘unknowables’ surrounding the plan”.
Pena Nieto earmarked $70 million to help fisherman during the ban. Saving these species is vital for the marine world.