The Aquarium is highlighting the vaquita, the smallest known porpoise, to educate the public about this endangered marine mammal and prompt action to prevent its extinction. In addition to the vaquita exhibit located in the second floor portion of the Southern California/Baja gallery, the Aquarium has also created a public service announcement video about the vaquita, which debuted during its annual Baja Splash cultural festival in September. Also during the festival, interpreters staffed stations to talk with visitors about the vaquita and its current situation.
The vaquita is found only in Mexico, its range restricted to a tiny northern corner of the Gulf of California. Gillnets used to harvest shrimp and other species threaten the vaquita with accidental entanglement and suffocation. Because of this, there are fewer than 100 vaquita left, and the species’ chance of survival is shrinking. However, there is hope for the vaquita. Elephant seals, also found in Mexico, rebounded from similarly low numbers after humans took action to protect them. Mexico has recently stepped up enforcement of a gillnet ban aimed at stopping dangerous fishing in the gulf and protecting the vaquita. With protection, the vaquita has a chance at recovery and a healthy future.
The Aquarium of the Pacific is working with other zoos and aquariums to spread the message and help protect this animal from extinction through an Association of Zoos and Aquariums program called SAFE, Saving Animals From Extinction.