WAN Update After Animal Advocates Rally To Urge Mexican Government To Take Further Steps To Save Vaquitas From Extinction

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Save The Vaquita Day 2018 may be over but the critical work to save them continues.

On Friday, conservation and animal protection organizations rallied outside the Mexican Embassy to call on the Mexican government to take more drastic action to save the fewer than 30 vaquita porpoises left on the planet. Advocates demanded that the Mexican government rigorously enforce laws to protect the rapidly disappearing species.

While a permanent ban on using gill nets was announced and enacted last year, unfortunately, on June 28th, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee (WHC) postponed an “in danger” listing for Mexico’s Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California World Heritage site, home of the critically endangered vaquita.

“In March of 2015, Mexico announced a temporary two-year ban on gill net fishing in the upper Gulf of California. This regulation was then replaced with a permanent ban on June 30, 2017.  Unfortunately, the 2017 ban fails far short of what is needed to save the vaquita, as it exempts Corvina and sierra fishing, thus providing cover for illegal activities,” Kate O’Connell, Animal Welfare Institute’s Marine Mammal Consultant, explained to WAN in an email.

“The ban fails to mandate the destruction of the hundreds of gill nets confiscated in the past year, and although the presence of Mexican government agencies has increased in the area, monitoring and enforcement of the regulation have been insufficient to stem the use of vaquita-deadly gill net,” O’Connell continued. “The situation in the upper Gulf of California remains dire, and if no additional measures are taken, the vaquita could well be extinct by 2021.”

Although the Gulf of California site was granted World Heritage status in 2005, in part, to protect the vaquita, this marks the second time the committee delayed the “in danger” designation.

For decades, vaquitas in the upper Gulf of California have been killed by entanglement in gill net fishing gear set to catch shrimp and other species. Over the past five years, this tiny porpoise’s population has plummeted by 90% because of increased use of illegal gill nets to capture endangered totoaba, a large fish whose swim bladder is in high demand in Asia.

Participants at the rally held signs, wore “Extinction is Forever” t-shirts, and handed out information to the public about the vaquita’s plight.

Ways people can help save the vaquita are available HERE!

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