Totoaba no longer at risk of extinction: could be legally marketed in Upper Gulf of California

By José Antonio Pérez

According to the National Fishing Institute (INAPESCA), the totoaba fish (dubbed “aquatic cocaine” due to the high value of its bladder on the Chinese black market) is no longer at risk of extinction and therefore may become marketable.

Pablo Arenas, INAPESCA General Director explained after a two year investigation they reached a “firm, impeccable scientific conclusion” establishing the Totoaba is no longer at risk of extinction.

Totoaba capture had been banned since August of 1975, though trafficking of its bladder continued through organized crime.  The use of illegal nets to catch totoaba, which is endemic to the Gulf of California, has also been thought to have impacted the endangered vaquita marina population due to drowning dangers.  Arenas believes removing prohibitions on totoaba will significantly reduce pressure on the Vaquita Marina.

The INAPESCA Director added removing the totoaba from the list of endangered species will allow for its commercialization nationally and, if the definition is further altered in the Convention on International Commerce of Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), this may eventually lead to legal export of the totoaba fish bladder, which is thought to have medicinal qualities.

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