The Vaquita Porpoise is the most endangered marine mammal on the planet. We’re talking seriously endangered. In fact, there are fewer than 30 Vaquitas left in the wild. Desperate times call for desperate measures, as they say, and there’s a currently a pretty desperate plan unfolding in an effort to save them.
Mexico’s president Pena Nieto has committed more than $100 million to save the Vaquita. More than two years ago, Nieto instituted a two-year ban on gillnets throughout the Vaquita’s range. At the same time, he put measures in place to compensate fishermen and related jobs for their loss of income. The ban was supposed to expire earlier this year, but the Mexican government elected to make the ban permanent instead.
On top of the permanent ban, the government has also recently put together a team of experts from all around the globe to work on a bold assignment called VaquitaCPR. The goal of the plan is to save the Vaquita–plain and simple. The plan involves rounding up all of the remaining Vaquitas and putting them in an ocean sanctuary off the coast of Baja’s San Felipe. Once the big threats in their natural habitat are dispelled (namely gillnets and illegal fishing) they plan is to release the Vaquitas back into the wild.
The operation officially launched on October 12 with the deployment of an acoustic monitoring system that will be used to find the Vaquitas. This acoustic system has been used for the last 5 years to monitor the Vaquita’s population, so it should be dialed in pretty accurately. Experts have constructed large, floating sea pens in San Felipe so that scientists can closely monitor the rescued Vaquitas.
Part of the plan will also involve finding and removing what are known as “ghost” nets–abandoned fishing nets that float through the ocean, often proving lethal for the Vaquitas and other marine species.
The VaquitasCPR endeavor has a lot of expertise involved, not to mention a ton of support, so hopes are pretty high that the plan will be successful. If the Vaquita can be saved, the same logistics may be employed for other endangered marine species in the future.