The totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi) is a large species of fish native to the Gulf of California in Mexico. Like the vaquita, it is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as “critically endangered”. The totoaba is being sought after for its swim bladder, which is considered a delicacy in China. The dried totoaba swim bladders are so valuable that they are referred to as the “cocaine of the sea”, with prices of up to $46,000 per kg on the Chinese black market. Fishing for totoaba was banned in Mexico in 1975, but due to its high value, illegal fishing has become rampant.
Because of the totoaba’s large size, nets designed to catch the fish have a mesh size that is also perfect to catch vaquita. And once caught, they drown within minutes as by-catch.