There are lots or organizations and individuals working hard to save the vaquita from extinction, and to provide community support to the people living in the upper Gulf of California. Here are a few of the groups that have provided invaluable assistance to us since we started work on our film project two years ago.
¡VIVA Vaquita! is a coalition of like-minded scientists, educators, and conservationists, who strive to increase the attention given to the vaquita, the World’s most endangered marine mammal species. Our goals and mission are to generate awareness of the vaquita and to promote a healthy Upper Gulf of California ecosystem. We conduct research, public awareness and education activities to bring this about. Ultimately, we aim to help save the vaquita from extinction, and to do so in a way that also provides long-term benefits to the fisherman and other residents who live around the Gulf of California, Mexico.
AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction focuses the collective expertise within our accredited zoos and aquariums and leverages their massive audiences to save species. At the same time, SAFE will build capacity to increase direct conservation spending, as well as our members’ impact on saving species through work in the field, in our zoos and aquariums, and through public engagement. We have done it before. Some species exist only because of the efforts of aquariums and zoos and our partners.
VaquitaCPR 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. VaquitaCPR operates as a private and public partnership, relying on both private donors and government funds. The National Marine Mammal Foundation, The Marine Mammal Center, and Chicago Zoological Society are assisting with coordination of the effort. Key collaborators in Mexico include Instituto Nacional de Ecología (INECC), Asociación Mexicana de Hábitats para la Interacción y Protección de Mamíferos Marinos (AMHMAR), Baja Aqua Farms, and Acuario Oceanico. United States collaborators include Duke University and the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission. European collaborators include Dolfinarium Harderwijk, Aarhus University, and Fjord&Baelt. Additional support and expertise has been offered from Dolphin Quest, SeaWorld, and the Vancouver Aquarium. Generous financial support from the Waitt Foundation and Disney Conservation Fund Rapid Response program helped with creation of the emergency action plan.
The SWFSC is the research arm of NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service in the Southwest Region. Center scientists conduct marine biological, economic and oceanographic research, observations and monitoring of living marine resources and their environment. Center scientists also conduct research on the impacts of environmental variability and climate change on marine ecosystems and on fishery and conservation socio-economics. The ultimate goal of these scientific efforts is to ensure that the region’s marine and anadromous fish, marine mammal, marine turtle, seabird, and invertebrate populations remain at sustainable and healthy levels, as functioning parts of their ecosystem and to enhance the quality of life for the public.
This link provides an overview of the efforts being made by a variety of Mexican government agencies to protect the vaquita and save it from extinction. Gob.mx is the platform that promotes innovation in government, drives efficiency, and transforms processes to provide information, procedures and a platform for participation to the population. It is the rethinking of the citizen-government relationship.
“Milagro” means “miracle” in Spanish – and thus, Operation Milagro is a very appropriate name for Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s campaign designed to save the most endangered marine mammal in the world – the vaquita marina porpoise (Phocoena sinus). The crews of Sea Shepherd’s vessels M/V Sam Simon and M/V Farley Mowat are patrolling in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, the only waters on Earth called home by the world’s smallest and rarest cetacean. With a population that has dwindled to an estimated less than 60 individuals, only 25 of whom are believed to be reproductive females, Sea Shepherd’s Operation Milagro III addresses the urgent need to conserve this imperiled species.
The Center and our allies have been working to create more tools, resources and incentives to save the last of the vaquitas. In 2014 we petitioned the United States (under a U.S. law called the Pelly Amendment) to institute trade sanctions against Mexico — which could include a ban on the import of shrimp from Mexico — if the country doesn’t crack down on the criminal totoaba trade threatening the world’s last few vaquitas. We also petitioned the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to place the Gulf of California on its World Heritage “in danger” list, which would give Mexico more funding for vaquita protection, along with international assistance for this rarest of porpoises. In January 2017, after no response to our 2014 petition, we filed a notice of intent to sue the United States to force it to institute trade sanctions against Mexico over illegal fishing. The pressure is on both the United Sates and Mexico to heed the call to save the vaquita before this tiny cetacean disappears forever.
The vaquita is not hunted in its own right – it is effectively suffering collateral damage as bycatch in illegal gillnets set for the totoaba fish, the dried swim bladders of which are highly sought-after in China. EIA works to expose the illegal totoaba trade while urging Mexico to significantly step up at-sea and shore-based enforcement efforts and to work with the USA and China to combat the organised criminal networks perpetuating the trade.
Porpoises tend to get less attention than their more popular cousins of the whale and dolphin family. They are not as charismatic and acrobatic as dolphins, not as impressive in size as killer whales or humpback whales. And yet they are highly intelligent and social animals that can be found in all of our oceans, and they are an important part of the ecosystem. Some even live right in our ocean backyards, mostly undetected. It is our mission to raise awareness for this unique group of animals and the challenges they face in our changing oceans. We want to raise their profile and inspire conservation action.