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Only 150 vaquita remain

Only 150 vaquita remain

Only 150 vaquita remain
November 19, 2007

Only 150 individual vaquita, the world’s smallest cetacean, remain, according to a new study published in Conservation Biology. The species has been decimated as accidental bycatch in fishing nets in its Gulf of California habitat. Researchers–who say there may be only a two-year window to save the species from extinction–have launched a last-ditch conservation effort.

Environmental groups WWF, Nature Conservancy and Conservation International have pledged $10 million while the Mexican government has offered $4 million this year to buy up fishing boats and nets while promoting more more sustainable fishing practices in the region.

Courtesy of the Marine Mammal Commission
The elusive vaquita, first described only in 1958, is found in the shallow (less than 50 m deep), near shore (within 40 km) waters of the northern Gulf of California, Mexico.

“This is the best political opportunity we have ever had to try to save them,” co-author Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, a marine mammalogist in Ensenada, Mexico, told “If it doesn’t work, the vaquita will go extinct.”

According to the, a $1 million program launched last year to pay local fishermen not to fish instead went to buy new boats and motors, possibly worsening the plight of the vaquita. This year the Mexican government will put $1 million towards enforcement of no-fishing zones.


The Vaquita, the world’s smallest cetacean, dives toward extinction
Accidental death in fishing nets is driving the world’s smallest cetacean, the Vaquita (Phocoena sinus), towards extinction, according to a new study published in the current issue of Mammal Review, the official scientific periodical of the Mammal Society.


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