We Can Still Save the Vaquita

Single vaquita surfacing. Picture by Thomas Jefferson.
A single vaquita surfacing in the Sea of Cortez. Photo by Thomas Jefferson.

The Most Endangered Marine Mammal in the World

The vaquita is the world’s smallest of the whales, dolphins and porpoises ─ and it is vanishing. Only 60 individuals remain of a population that went from several hundred to a few dozen animals in less than a decade. First it was legal fishing with gill-nets that took place for decades and caused a rapid decline. Today it is illegal fishing for another endangered species, a large fish called ‘totoaba’, that is killing vaquita as by-catch. The population has declined by 80% between 2011 and 2015, to just about 1.2% of the original population of close to 5,000 individuals believed to live in the Sea of Cortez in the 1930s.

A Day to Raise Awareness

International Save the Vaquita Day was created to raise awareness for the critically endangered vaquita porpoise. On July 9, in an effort to reach as wide an audience as possible, we joined the global effort with an event hosted in collaboration with the Vancouver Aquarium. A whole day of vaquita programming, with Porpoise Conservation Society volunteers engaging and talking to guests about the plight of this beautiful animal.

Porpoise Conservation Society volunteers talking to visitors. Photo by Meighan Makarchuk/Vancouver Aquarium.

Porpoise Conservation Society president Dr. Anna Hall gave two talks to visitors, introducing the vaquita and pleading with the audience to take action to prevent extinction. One common question was whether the vaquita really had a chance to survive and for its population to recover. And the answer remains yes!

There is nothing else we need to worry about other than gill-nets. If we remove the gill-nets, we will likely save the vaquita.

Take Action to Prevent Extinction

It is not too late to save the vaquita. You can help, simply by spreading the word. Share our campaign page, tell your friends and family about the vaquita. Visit Mexico’s Baja California to support its communities – and make sure you make sustainable choices when buying seafood.

A craft at our table for International Save the Vaquita Day illustrates entanglement of vaquita in gill-nets. Photo by Leanne Scherp.

Gill-nets are a threat to all small cetaceans on the planet. More than 300,000 whales, porpoises and dolphins drown in nets every year. And that is entirely preventable. Check out the Ocean Wise (Canada) and Seafood Watch (United States) sustainable seafood programs for more information on how you can avoid buying seafood caught with unsustainable fishing methods. For our international audience, the Marine Stewardship Council, or MSC, is popular in Europe and other parts of the world and also provides information on sustainable seafood choices.

We need to support the seafood industry to really take a stance against fish that are caught in gill-nets.