Update! VaquitaCPR Rescue Efforts End Today After Attempts To Save 2 Vaquitas Have Failed

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While there were fleeting moments when it seemed like the VaquitaCPR program might prove successful, sadly, it did not.

Even more heartbreaking is the fact that one of the last remaining vaquitas, of which there are less than 30 remaining in the wild, died last weekend after she was captured and relocated to an ocean pen in the Upper Gulf of California.

Concerns also remain about a six-month-old vaquita calf, the first porpoise captured as part of the Vaquita CPR program, who showed signs of stress after its capture on October 19th and was quickly released.

Tragically, hundreds of the marine mammals have perished since 1997, despite significant efforts by the Mexican government to ban gillnet fishing throughout the vaquita’s range and establish strong enforcement of conservation measures. Yet Illegal gillnet fishing continues.

As no conservation project like this had ever been done before, the operation came with significant risk. However, scientists agreed that the risk of extinction in the wild due to entanglement and drowning in gillnets in Mexico’s Gulf of California was still far greater than the risk of rescue efforts.

Many organizations that were skeptical, and sometimes critical, of the VaquitaCPR rescue efforts, had issued warnings about their concerns; predominately that the small porpoises are notoriously shy, fragile and extremely vulnerable to stress.

Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) was among the groups calling for an immediate halt to the program earlier this week.

While no other attempts were made to capture any more vaquitas following the tragic fatality of the mature female vaquita on Saturday, the program officially ends today.

“The Mexican government must immediately and substantially increase enforcement efforts throughout the Upper Gulf of California, and bring illegal fishing to an end,” AWI said in a statement.

AWI explained that unfortunately Mexico’s ban on gillnets that was enacted at the end of June, still provides exemptions for the area’s Corvina and Spanish mackerel gillnet fisheries.

Unfathomably, the ban also fails to prohibit the possession, sale, and manufacture of these deadly nets.

“Unless illegal fishing is ended through rigorous and stepped-up enforcement, and gillnets can no longer be found in the Upper Gulf, the regulations of the ban will remain inadequate to save the vaquita from extinction,” noted AWI.

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