A search in Mexico is set to find the world’s most endangered porpoise

A search in Mexico is set to find the world’s most endangered porpoise

Mexican officials and the conservation group Sea Shepherd said Monday that experts will embark on two ships in an effort to locate the vaquita anchor, the world’s most endangered marine mammal.

Mexico’s environment minister said experts from the United States, Canada and Mexico will use binoculars, vision devices and acoustic monitors to try to locate the elusive baby porpoises. The species cannot be captured, kept or bred in captivity.

The voyage will run from May 10 to May 27 in the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of ​​Cortez, the only place the vaquita lives. The group will travel in a Sea Shepherd and a Mexican boat to try and watch the vaquitas; It is believed that at least eight of the remaining creatures.

Illegal fishing with gillnets kills the vaquita. Fishermen set out nets to catch tupi, a fish whose floating bladder is a delicacy in China and can fetch thousands of dollars per pound (kilogram).

Sea Shepherd is working in the Gulf alongside the Mexican Navy to discourage illegal fishing in the area where the Vaquitas were last seen. The area is known as a “zero tolerance” zone, and no hunting is allowed. However, illegal fishing boats are seen regularly there, thus Mexico has not been able to stop them completely.

A combination of patrolling and the Mexican Navy’s plan to sink concrete blocks with hooks for illegal nets has reduced the number of hours fishing boats spend in the restricted area by 79% in 2022, compared to the previous year, Pritam Singh, chief of Sea Shepherd, said.

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“The past 18 months have been incredibly moving and encouraging,” Singh said, while noting that “we have a long way to go to save this species.”

The last such expedition in 2021 yielded possible sightings of between 5 and 13 vaquitas, a decrease from the previous survey in 2019. Porpoises are very small and very elusive, and are usually seen from very far away, making them difficult to spot. like that. Check if the observers saw the vaquita, how many they saw or if they saw the same animal twice.

But poaching itself has held back residents’ accounts in the past.

According to a report by experts published in 2022, both the 2019 and 2021 surveys “were obstructed by the presence of many illegal fishing boats with gillnets in the water. Some areas could not be surveyed at all on some days due to the intensity of illegal fishing.” .

Government protection efforts have been uneven, at best, and often also meet with violent opposition from local fishermen.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration has largely refused to spend money to compensate fishermen for staying out of the vaquita refuge and to stop using gillnets, or to monitor their presence or the areas from which they originate.

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