Conservation Letters (2016)

DOI: 10.1111/conl.12317


If efforts to conserve endangered species lack long-term visions and neglect the human dimensions, conservation success will be questionable. Exclusion of stakeholders in decisions can lead to mistrust and polarization of groups. The story of the vaquita marina (Phocoena sinus) in the Upper Gulf of California provides a unique opportunity to discuss this paradigm. A proposed gear-switch in the local fisheries addresses the bycatch that threatens the vaquita but neglects local livelihoods, the traditions and heritage of the community, the ecological integrity of the area and increases dependence on fishing subsidies. We estimate it will cost an additional US $8.5 million (2/3 of the net revenue produced by gillnets and 30% more in fuel consumption) if local revenues are to be maintained at pre-gear-switch levels. In addition, suggested new trawl gears caught 2.7 times more unusable (therefore discarded) bycatch than gillnets, which included invertebrates and small juvenile fishes of economically valuable species. Our results show that the proposed gear switch intervention can be considered another “quick-fix” intervention in the history of the vaquita conservation agenda that urgently needs long-term goals that incorporate ecological, economic, and human wellbeing.