Six Trafficking Arrests Made In Mexico For The Illegal Poaching Of Protected Totoaba; The Main Reason For The Decline Of The Critically Endangered Vaquita Porpoise

Photo by Sea Shepherd

In a precedent-setting legal development, Mexican authorities have arrested six suspected totoaba traffickers under charges of Organized Crime and Crimes Against the Environment. This is the first time that charges of this nature have been applied in Mexico.

A press release issued by the Mexican Attorney General’s Office states that the arrests were made during a series of coordinated raids on November 11th, carried out to enforce warrants issued earlier in the year.

The wildlife traffickers arrested include: Sunshine Rodríguez Peña, Juan Luis García Ruiz “La Yegua,” Luis Aldaz Valenzuela, and Segundo Valenzuela.

Earth League International’s confidential data on Totoaba Cartels from Operation Fake Gold’ helped support the work of Mexican authorities.

After years of sharing confidential data on wildlife traffickers with the Mexican Authorities, Earth League International is pleased to see that their Confidential Intelligence Briefs (CIB’s) have been used to support the work of Mexican law enforcement agencies, in the effort to save the critically endangered vaquita porpoise from extinction.

Totoaba poaching is the primary cause of the decline of the critically endangered vaquita porpoise, the world’s most endangered marine mammal, which exists only in a small region in Mexico’s Upper Gulf of California. There are sadly fewer than 15 vaquitas remaining in the wild. 

The totoaba is a large species of sea bass endemic to the waters of Mexico and protected under international law. Poachers catch totoabas for their swim bladders, which are often referred to as “the cocaine of the sea” due to the high price they demand on the Chinese black market.

The gillnets that poachers use to catch totoabas often span several hundred feet in length and form invisible barriers under the sea. Vaquitas, which are approximately the same size as totoabas, become entangled in the deadly illegal nets and drown. Whales, dolphins, sharks, and sea turtles also fall victim to these illegal nets.

Sea Shepherd has also been working with Mexican authorities to deter poaching and remove the illegal gillnets that threaten the survival of the vaquita since 2015.

To date, Sea Shepherd’s Operation Milagro (Spanish for “miracle”), has removed over 1,200 pieces of illegal fishing gear from the Vaquita Refuge, a UNESCO-recognized and federally-protected area in which gillnet fishing is banned.

“I congratulate the Mexican authorities for this series of important arrests. We are happy that our nearly three-year investigation and the confidential information obtained was useful to trigger such an important operation,” Andrea Crosta, President of Earth League International told WAN.

Earth League International urges the Mexican Government to continue prosecuting criminals in environmental organized crime syndicates and act against Chinese traffickers residing in Mexico, who are the real drivers behind the totoaba illegal supply chain that is driving the vaquita to extinction.

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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