Imminent extinction for porpoise

Imminent extinction for porpoise: Campaigners say there are only 30 vaquita porpoises left, with their population having nosedived by 90% since 2011 and therefore unless an immediate extension of a fishing ban is imposed to save the world’s most endangered marine species they are likely to go extinct by the middle of 2018.

You are in a situation with a critically low number of vaquitas and a limited window to protect them, said Chris Gee from WWF.

The vaquita porpoises are often accidentally killed in gillnets which were banned for two years in 2015 and wildlife conservation agencies hope that the Mexican government will now extend the ban due to expire at the end of May.

Vaquita marina species are only found in the Gulf of California that sits between the Mexican mainland and the Baja peninsula. Continuing threat from illegal fishing with gillnets Previous attempts to stop the use of gillnets have failed as fishers continue to work the waters, many looking to catch the Totoaba, a large species which is prized for its swim bladder. The Totoaba bladders can fetch up to $8,500 a kilogram on the black market; due to their demand in traditional Chinese medicine. The vaquitas are often the unintended victims of these illegal hunts. In March and April of this year five dead porpoises were recovered, three of them killed in gillnets.

As well as efforts by the Mexicans, WWF are also calling on the US and Chinese governments to take steps to stop the trade in Totoaba which is indirectly impacting the vaquitas.

The campaign to extend the ban has attracted the support of the actor Leonardo Di Caprio who has been using social media to highlight the plight of the vaquitas and to encourage his followers to put pressure on the the Mexican President to act.

Mr Di Caprio’s efforts have seen the President, Enrique Peña Nieto, respond directly on Twitter, defending his country’s actions to protect the porpoise.

Scientists, working closely with the US and Mexican navies, are attempting to use bottlenose dolphins to locate vaquitas in the Gulf of California with the view to capturing them and moving them to safer waters. It is hoped that the species could be re-introduced when illegal fishing and other threats are dealt with.

“If there’s a special sea pen that could protect some of them you could see some of them re-introduced when the Gulf is free of gillnets. It would take some time, there are scientists who are confident they can find ways to make this work, and yes it is an extreme measure but it is an extreme situation, said WWF’s Chris Gee.

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