Only about 10 vaquitas remain, but scientists say there’s still hope for the elusive porpoises. Their fate largely depends on the Mexican government.
As scientists planned an expedition in Mexico this fall to count one of the world’s most endangered animals, a shy porpoise called a vaquita, they dreaded the possibility that there would be none left to find. The last survey, in 2019, estimated that only about 10 remained.
At the same time, fishermen in the area were preparing to set out with the illegal nets that scientists say are driving the porpoises to extinction: walls of mesh that hang upright below the surface, up to 20 feet deep and stretching the length of several football fields. Called gill nets, they trap shrimp and fish. They also entangle vaquitas, drowning the mammals. Researchers say the nets are the only known cause for the species’ catastrophic decline, but getting rid of them has turned out to be a challenge.
Link of the story : https://nyti.ms/3qwFQBp
Fishermen used a gill net to catch shrimp in the Gulf of California on Oct. 19. The nets are prohibited but widely used.
San Felipe, Mexico, a town of roughly 20,000 on the Gulf of California.
Shrimp in a gill net on the Gulf of California. Vaquitas and other animals like sea turtles can become entangled in the nets and drown.
A vaquita skeleton at the Whale Museum in La Paz, Mexico.
A fishing crew hauled a gill net out of the water. The nets can stretch the length of several football fields.
Fishing boats entered the gulf at an illegal but widely used access point in San Felipe.
A shrine to Our Lady of Carmen, revered as a protector of fishermen, at the pier of San Felipe.
Fishermen removed the heads from shrimp caught in the gulf. Some locals believe vaquitas have already vanished, but a scientific survey in October and early November confirmed their presence.
Fishermen came across a dead whale in October. Like vaquitas, whales can become entangled in fishing gear and drown, though the cause of death in this case was not known.
A kid next to a vaquita garbage dump on the Malecon of San Felipe, Baja California on October 23, 2021. Fred Ramos for The New York Times