ASCOBANS is an acronym for “Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas”. ASCOBANS was concluded in 1991 as the Agreement on the Conservation of…


CIRVA is an acronym for Comité Internacional para la Recuperación de la Vaquita (International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita). CIRVA is an international team of scientists established by…

If there are only so few left, can we still save the vaquita?

We can’t know for sure. But there have been several examples of marine mammal species that have come back from the brink of extinction. The vaquita population can recover if the immediate threat is removed from its habitat. And the only real danger for the vaquita are gill-nets.


The totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi) is a very large species of fish that is endemic to the Gulf of California in Mexico. Once abundant, the totoaba has become rare and is…

What efforts have been made to save the vaquita?

Since the vaquita was first described by science and shortly after declared “vulnerable” by the IUCN, numerous actions have been taken by the Mexican government to save the species. However, none of these actions have prevented the decline of the population.
A ban on gill-nets should have halted the decline, but gill-net fishing continues, with seasonal permits for a local species of fish, the corvina, and illegally for the totoaba.

Why are Dall’s porpoise hunted in Japan?

In Japan, thousands of Dall’s porpoise are killed in directed hunts every year. The animals are killed for consumption. As there are no recent abundance estimates for Dall’s porpoise in…

Why is the vaquita endangered?

The single most serious thread to the vaquita, and the cause for its rapid decline, is the use of gill-nets in the vaquita habitat.

A gill-net is a wall of netting that hangs in the water column. The mesh is designed so that fish can get their heads through, but not the rest of their bodies. As they struggle to free themselves, they get entangled with their gills. Gill-nets are very effective and used around the world, but often lead to large amounts of by-catch and pose a threat to other marine animals, such as sea turtles, seals and sea lions and cetaceans like the vaquita. If a vaquita gets entangled, it only has minutes to free itself. Most animals drown, and those that escape often do so with severe injuries.