The Vaquita is the rarest marine mammal in the world; a little porpoise, that wasn’t discovered until 1958. Now, almost 60 years on and they are on the brink of extinction. They are often caught in nets in marine protected areas, within Mexico’s Gulf of California, and drown as a result. Sadly, more than half of the population has been lost in the last three years.
The Vaquita is pale grey along its’ sides, dark grey on the dorsal surface (on top), and light grey/ white ventral surface (along the bottom). They have dark rings around the eyes and lips, and a dark thin line from the lips to the pectoral (front, side) fins. Newborns are darker in colour, with pale grey along the dorsal surface and head.
Since the freshwater River Dolphin species, the Baiji, went extinct in 2006 the Vaquita has taken the title of the world’s most endangered cetacean. As of 2016, there is suspected to be less than 30 left in the wild; a drastic drop in numbers since 1997 when there were approximately 600 in the wild.
The poaching of the endangered Totoaba fish, for its’ swim bladder – a Chinese delicacy, using gill-nets (fixed fishing nets) is the main cause of the Vaquita’s declining numbers. Vaquita’s get caught in gill-nets, and drown, as they cannot get free to get to the surface for air.
Gill-nets, though usually put in place for a single species, do not discriminate – many different species get caught, and often die. Whales, dolphins and porpoises all get trapped – some get away with injuries, whilst most die.
Dr. Anna Hall, of the Porpoise Conservation Society, said, “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.”
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