Meet the world’s smallest and most endangered cetacean: the Vaquita.
The Vaquita (Phocena sinus) is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List and has been since 1996. There are currently only believed to be 18 mature individuals left in the wild, all of which are in one subpopulation, and unfortunately their population trend is still decreasing. According to both genetic and morphological analysis vaquitas are most closely related to porpoises in South America.
Vaquitas only occur in relatively shallow waters of the northern Gulf of California in Mexico. They feed on a variety of squids, crustaceans and sea floor fishes (demersal or benthic fish if you want to get technical).
The biggest threat to the survival of the vaquita is the use of gillnets. Each year around 7-15% of vaquitas die trapped in gillnets. 7-15% may not sound like a lot but with only 18 mature individuals that equates to 1-3 vaquita deaths each year. Also, the bycatch rate of vaquitas in nets laid is estimated to be between 39 and 84%.
In 1997 the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA) was established. Since 1997 CIRVA has been working to establish a permanent ban on the manufacture, possession and use of all gillnets throughout the range of the vaquita. They have also suggested the removal of vaquitas into protective sanctuaries, with the first attempt scheduled for Autumn 2017. Conservation history was made on October 19th when VaquitaCPR rescued the first vaquita!
Click here to read the latest report from CIRVA which is a report of their latest meeting (CIRVA-9) and took place between April 25-26 2017.
If you want to help the world’s most endangered marine mammal you can adopt a vaquita for the price of $25 from the Porpoise Conservation Society. In the adoption pack you receive an adoption certificate, a species profile and a spot on their virtual recognition wall
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