For the past two years since we began working on our documentary Souls of the Vermilion Sea we have struggled with this central question: What can others do to help save the vaquita from extinction?

20080814_vaquitaThere are some people who have the ability to have a direct impact on the outcome of this issue.  Fisherman in the upper Gulf of California can choose not to participate in the illegal totoaba fishery that is driving the vaquita’s decline.  Wealthy people in China can choose to stop purchasing totoaba swim bladders and slow down the market for this illegal wildlife product.

In working on our film, we wanted to target these two groups of people first – we knew that this approach held the greatest potential to have an impact with our story.  This is why the very first thing we did upon completing our new 30-min version of Souls of the Vermilion Sea was host a series of screenings in San Felipe, Mexico – the town at the epicenter of the current controversy over vaquita conservation efforts.

Gillnet fishing in the upper Gulf of California. Above - a entangled vaquita recovered from a gillnet.

Gillnet fishing in the upper Gulf of California. Upper right – a dead vaquita entangled in a gillnet.

We took the film into every middle school and high school in San Felipe and screened it to classroom after classroom of kids.  We easily reached several hundred young students over the course of three days, and we left DVD copies and digital files on thumb drives for every teacher we met along the way.  This was our moment to have an impact – and realistically the potential for these classroom screenings to affect the outcome of this issue vastly outweigh any outreach effort we could pull off here in the US.

Screening our film at a local high school in San Felipe.

Screening our film at a local high school in San Felipe.

Next, we organized a large screening event in Hong Kong – the primary port where illegal totoaba swim bladders enter China.  The screening was hosted by the Asia Society, and was attended by Chinese government officials, local NGO’s, as well as the Consul Generals of the Mexican and US Consulates in Hong Kong and Macau.  Additionally, we have been collaborating with the group Wild Aid in the production of an hour long television program which will be airing on one of China’s largest TV networks in the coming months.

Post-screening Q&A at our Hong Kong film screening.

Post-screening Q&A at our Hong Kong film screening.

When presenting our film to these types of audiences, the ask is clear and direct – stop participating in this illegal market for totoaba swim bladders.

But what about folks who live far away from the vaquita’s home, and have never even heard of, much less have an interest in purchasing, a totoaba swim bladder?

This is a much more difficult question, but we’ve come up with a few ideas:


  • Visit San Felipe
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The beaches of this sleepy fishing community are spectacular and the area is a truly unique tourist destination.  Just by visiting the town and spending tourist dollars you are helping the vaquita by making the tourist industry in the region more economically viable.  Talk to local people about the vaquita and express your concern over the continued existence of the species.  Let’s try to create a tourism based economy in San Felipe that incorporates the presence of the vaquita.


    • Watch our film, and help us spread the word about the crisis facing the vaquita!

Check out the trailer for Souls of the Vermilion Sea above, and stay tuned for more information about our forthcoming feature length documentary about the vaquita.

Despite all the mainstream media coverage that the vaquita has been getting in recent months, most people in the US, Mexico and China still have no idea what a vaquita is and why it is being driven to extinction.  Talk to your friends and family and share our film on social media.

If you are really motivated to help spread the word about the vaquita, you can help host a screening event for our half hour version of the film.  Click here to learn more about how to get involved.


  • Donate money to vaquita recovery efforts.

There are lots of groups out there working tirelessly to save the vaquita from extinction.  Many of these groups are non-profit organizations that rely on donations and could use your support!  Here are a few ways to make your donation count:

Vaquita CPR: Consortium for Vaquita Conservation, Protection, and Recovery – this is an international conservation program led by Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT), the Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources in Mexico, the National Marine Mammal Foundation, the Marine Mammal Center, and the Chicago Zoological Society.

Donate here:

Viva Vaquita – a non-profit originally conceived by researchers and educators from three nonprofit organizations: : Cetos Research Organization, Save The Whales, and the American Cetacean Society, Monterey Bay Chapter.  Since the inception of this organization many other organizations have joined including Wild Lens. Their goals and mission are to generate awareness of the vaquita and to promote a healthy Upper Gulf of California ecosystem through research, public awareness and education activities, ultimately, to help save the vaquita from extinction.

Donate here:

Monitoreo Vaquita – a non-profit group operated by Wild Lens collaborator, Brenda Razo focused on supporting the local fishermen of the Upper Gulf of California.  Their mission is to raise awareness about the plight of the vaquita, local fishermen and overall community.  They also are raising funds to help the fishermen conserve the vaquita by collecting population data through the acoustic monitoring program and by removing derelict gillnets from the sea.

Learn more and donate here:

Wild LensContribute to the production of our documentary about the vaquita, Souls of the Vermilion Sea!  Wild Lens is a non-profit media production company focused on addressing wildlife conservation issues, and we have been working to tell the vaquita’s story for the past  2 years.  We just released our second short film about vaquita conservation efforts, and are working towards producing a more comprehensive feature length documentary about the vaquita.

Donate here:


Make informed decisions when purchasing seafood.

Recently NRDC, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Animal Welfare Institute initiated a campaign to Boycott Mexican Shrimp.  The goal of this campaign is to put pressure on Mexican government officials to take further action to protect the vaquita.  This is a controversial approach, since it potentially harms fisherman who have no involvement with the vaquita, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and this is one of several last ditch efforts focused on saving this species.

Additionally, seafood purchasing guides such as Seafood Watch and are incredibly important tools for folks who enjoy consuming seafood, and they are a part of the long term solution for marine conservation efforts.  Click here to learn more about Seafood Watch.


Sign an online petition.

A number of online petitions have been set up over the past several years with the goal of putting pressure on government officials in Mexico, the US and China to take the crisis facing the vaquita more seriously.  Here is a recent petition that is worth signing:

Association of Zoos and Aquariums to ban gillnets and increase enforcement:

World Wildlife Fund petition to protect the Gulf of California, World Heritage and home of the vaquita, in critical danger of extinction:


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