The vaquita, a small porpoise found only in the northern Gulf of California in Mexico, is the world’s most endangered marine mammal.
Vaquitas are endangered because they accidentally entangle and drown in fishing nets, called gillnets, used for fish or shrimp. Vaquita deaths have increased recently due to entanglement in gillnets set for totoaba, a large fish—also endangered. Totoaba is harvested illegally for its swim bladder, which is prized in China. Fewer than 30 vaquitas remain, and the species will soon be extinct unless the mortality in fishing nets is eliminated. To save the vaquita, scientists agree that the only solution is to totally eliminate fishing with gillnets within vaquita habitat. A group of innovative Mexican fishermen are responding to the urgent need for action. Working with scientists, non-governmental agencies, and gear experts, these fishermen are developing new types of non-entangling fishing gear.
The vaquita has the right to live as well. If we don’t save them then our grandchildren won’t know them. I want them to be able to go fishing and see one and say, ‘Look, there is a vaquita like my tata (grandfather) used to see!’
— José Luis “Chalunga” Romero González