Photo Courtesy by pbs.org
The vaquita, a type of small porpoise found in the Gulf of Mexico, has decreased in population by 92 percent since the late 1990s which is leading scientists to warn that it can be extinct as early as 2018, according to mnn.com.
Vaquitas are usually four feet long and 90 pounds and are the planet’s smallest marine mammals. Mexico has spent more than $50 million in the past years to save the vaquita, creating a 480 square mile refuge in the Gulf of California and compensating local fishermen for lost income.
In 2015, the Mexican government announced it would ban gill nets across 5,000 square miles of vaquita habitat for two years, buying more time for the development of vaquita-friendlier fishing nets. It also unveiled a $70 million plan to help anglers adapt, task the Mexican Navy with enforcement of vaquita protections, and step up surveillance with faster boats, aircraft, and drones, according to huffington post.
“They want us to stop fishing,” said Andrés González, a 43-year-old fisherman, from Golfo de Santa Clara, Mexico. They want to take care of the animals here, but they are not taking care of the people.” nytimes.Around 100 vaquitas were living in 2014, but that number has dropped down to just 60 by 2016, and scientists announced in 2017 that there were only 30 left on the planet, according to mnn.com..
Many vaquitas have been dying of stress each time scientists try to catch them. The most recent test they were trying to do was on a female in November of 2017, but she died when they were releasing her, according to latimes.com.
Another cause for the death of vaquitas is being captured illegally at night, in the Gulf of California, from Mexican fishers that go ahead of the patrol boat to catch them. A drone captured a video of people trying to catch a vaquita , but was later caught by boat patrol before any harm was done, according to mnn.com.