By José Antonio Pérez
The small ocean mammal, the vaquita (Phocoena sinus), of the Upper Gulf of California is nearly on the brink of extinction. Yet, the Museo de la Ballena y Ciencias del Mar (Whale and Sea Science Museum) reported between Aug. 19th – Sept. 3rd three pairs of vaquitas had been spotted near the coasts of San Felipe, Baja California, which is the first sighting of the vaquita this year. According to specialists, the reported vaquitas were adults and in good health.
“Despite all fatal forecasts, setbacks, threats, and the insistence of some that the vaquita doesn’t even exist, we can now share photos from the research ship in the Upper Gulf meant to conduct a population census of the species that continues to cling to life,” emphasized the organization.
Members of the National Commission on Protected Natural Areas (CONANP), the Ministry of the Navy (SEMAR), the Sea Shephard Conservation Society, and the Museo de la Ballena y Ciencias del Mar participated in the vaquita sighting expedition, in collaboration with researchers from the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur.
It is believed there are only between 6 to 20 vaquita remaining, thus the importance of ongoing monitoring and protection efforts.
Vaquita rescue and conservation efforts are detailed in the “Sustainability for the Northern Gulf of California Initiative”, whose main objective is to create sustainable environmental, social, and economic conditions geared at harmonizing production activities in the region.
Programs of the Sea Shephard, “Operation Milagro”, to remove illegal gillnets are set to resume in October, in conjunction with Mexican authorities, as fishing activities pick up again in the Upper Gulf of California.