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Vaquita and Totoaba

The vaquita's fate has long been tied to that of the totoaba, a large fish that grows to over 6 feet and over 200 pounds.

Man holding a totoaba fish

Omar Vidal

This endangered fish is prized for its swim bladder (an internal air-filled sac that helps the fish maintain buoyancy), which is exported to China where it is used in soup, as traditional medicine, and as an investment. Thousands of swim bladders are dried and smuggled out of Mexico, often through the U.S. Fishermen may receive several thousands of dollars for each kilogram of totoaba swim bladder, equivalent to a large portion of a year’s income from legal fishing activities.