Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s Latest Expedition Recorded The First Critically Endangered Vaquita Sightings This Year

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Photos by Sea Shepherd

A group of scientists and conservationists recorded the first vaquita sighting of 2019. The visual expedition is a joint effort by Mexico’s National Commission on Protected Areas (CONANP), Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and Museo de la Ballena y Ciencias del Mar. It is currently taking place in the Upper Gulf of California with special participation from leading marine mammal researchers from the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (UABCS), the U.S. and Mexican Navy.

The crew aboard Sea Shepherd’s M/V Sharpie photographed two vaquitas on August 19th and 20th. This was followed by another sighting on September 3rd. The vaquitas documented were adult and appeared in good health. Vaquitas are the world’s smallest cetaceans and the most endangered marine mammal on earth. The species is endemic to Mexico’s Upper Gulf of California with approximately less than 19 remaining.

“It is very important to document these live vaquitas,” noted Sea Shepherd Founder and Executive Director, Captain Paul Watson in a statement. “Our crews have been working tirelessly, day and night, to remove the gillnet threat from the vaquita’s path. Some say the plight of the vaquita is a lost cause, but we believe that lost causes are the only causes worth fighting for and all our crew are united in this belief that the impossible can become possible. And it is the passion, courage, imagination and resourcefulness of my incredible crew that will win this fight for the vaquitas and for the oceans.”

This is the first time Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has participated in a visual expedition to identify and document the vaquita. Sea Shepherd first recorded a vaquita on April 18th, 2015—just two days after Mexico announced a plan to protect the species. This incident paved the way for the continued collaboration between Mexico and Sea Shepherd. Through its Operation Milagro, Sea Shepherd has been in the vaquita refuge for the last five years, deploying multiple vessels from its fleet, monitoring poaching, and retrieving 990 pieces or 200 kilometers of illegal fishing gear. The operation will resume in early October.

The research program for the vaquita is an effort led by CONANP and has been a reliable tool to understand the vaquita population. Their acoustic monitoring program is responsible for the most accurate assessments and is therefore a vital tool in the effort to protect the species.

Please check out the expedition’s Photos and Videos HERE. For updates on Operation Milagro, CLICK HERE 

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