Currently, according to records, there are only around 10 copies of the vaquita porpoise.
Environmental groups called on Thursday for an international trade ban on a variety of seafood and Mexican wildlife to be implemented, in order to force Mexico to take stricter measures to save the vaquita, the most endangered marine mammal. extinction in the world.
The United States already has an embargo on shrimp imports from the upper Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez and which is the only place where the vaquita porpoise lives. Currently, there are around 10 specimens of the porpoise.
The Council for the Defense of Natural Resources, the Center for Biological Diversity, and two other groups said in an open letter that Mexico has not implemented a ban on fishing gillnets, in which vaquitas get caught. The nets are placed to catch totoaba, an endangered fish whose bladder is considered a delicacy in China and whose value reaches thousands of dollars.
“Only the most intense international pressure will force Mexico to pull the deadly fishing nets out of the water before those tiny porpoises disappear forever,” wrote Sarah Uhlemann, director of the international program at the Center for Biological Diversity.
The Mexican government did not immediately comment on the matter.
In March, a government body sparked criticism by announcing that it would consider several proposals that would very possibly harm the vaquita. The government has not announced whether those proposals will be accepted.
Mexico’s interagency group said it is considering withdrawing protection for the totoaba as an endangered species. Opening up legal fishing for totoaba would likely increase vaquitas deaths, but would mean higher income for some Mexican fishermen.
The group also said it was considering reducing the protection zone for the vaquita, which could expand the area for the use of gillnets for fishing for totoaba and other species. The vaquitas get caught in the nets and drown.
In addition, the group revived an old and discredited theory that attributes the decline in the vaquita population to the lack of water flow from the United States through the Colorado River, which begins in the United States and empties into the Gulf of California.
The theory of the Colorado River indicated that the reduction of fresh water in the river due to the use of the United States had increased the salinity of the northern part of the gulf, affecting in some way the vaquita marina.
Last week, the International Union for Conservation of Nature published a letter refuting that argument, noting that “the scientific community widely accepts that unsustainable mortality in gillnets (set for shrimp, totoaba and other fish) it is the cause of the rapid decline in the vaquita population … There is no reason to seek an alternative explanation for the unprecedented decline of the vaquita. “
The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) has said that the decrease in the number of vaquitas and the area where they have been seen in recent years justifies the reduction of the protection zone, which currently covers most of the northern part of the gulf. The area begins around the Colorado River delta and extends south through the fishing town of San Felipe, in Baja California, and near Puerto Peñasco, in Sonora.
But such an action would also be to admit the possibility that the little porpoise will never fully recover its historical habitat.