Mexican authorities have resorted to sinking illegal fishing nets with bricks in the Sea of Cortez in an effort to stop rampant poaching and save the vaquita marina, the world’s most endangered marine mammal.
Sea life poaching is a lucrative business — likely worth tens of millions of dollars, according to a report by the Brookings Institution. Cartels pay fishermen and extort fisheries for species that sell for big bucks in China’s black market.
- One of the main targets is the endangered Totoaba fish, which is found in the Gulf of California. Its swim bladder is considered a delicacy in China and sells for up to $100,000, according to Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, who works for a Mexican government agency focused on conservation.
- But other marine life like the vaquita marina are also affected, largely because they get caught in nets fishing for other species.
The Mexican Navy began dropping nearly 200 blocks with hooks attached to them on Friday, saying it’s a low-cost and ongoing measure to fight poaching activities. Nets are the primary way people fish in the Gulf of California.
Environmentalists are worried that the Navy’s program will do more harm than good because the bricks and nets could trap fish and kill them.
- They’re also worried that the government isn’t doing enough to protect sea life.
- The Mexican government said last year it would no longer remove illegal fishing boats out of the protected area after violent attacks from fishermen. Now it just fines them.
- The United States requested “environmental consultations” with Mexico in February, signaling the lack of protection measures for the vaquita is in violation of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.