Vaquita

(Phocoena sinus)

Introducing the vaquita!

It is the only 100% Mexican marine mammal and lives in the upper Gulf of Baja California. It is the smallest porpoise in the world and measures approximately 1.5 m. It is a charismatic creature that is characterized by having a dark coloration around the eyes and mouth.

 

Like toothed cetaceans, the vaquita can recognize its prey with the help of echolocation or a sensory system that consists of sending sound waves into the water, which bounce back and return to the brain.

Unfortunately, the vaquita is on the verge of extinction!

It is classified as critically endangered according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is included in Appendix II of the International Convention for Trafficking in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, and appears in danger of extinction according to the Mexican Official Standard (NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010).

 

Its threat is caused by the bycatch of gillnets, from fishing activities for the capture of totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi), a species of fish that is only found where the vaquita's home is and that is also in Danger of extinction. The totoaba is captured to obtain its swim bladder or crop, a product with a high value in the Asian market.

How many vaquitas do we have left?

The vaquita population has drastically decreased in recent years, until less than 10 individuals remain in the wild in 2021. In December 2021, only 7-8 vaquitas were observed. The good news is that two of them were pups, that is, they continue to reproduce. Previously it was thought that it could only have one offspring every two years, but recent studies have shown that it can reproduce every year, faster than previously thought.

The latest science indicates that if fishing stops in its habitat, the vaquita can recover.

How can we help for the vaquita survive?

You can join the vaquita CPR initiative, which is supported by national and international institutions such as the National Marine Mammal Foundation, Delphinus, Cancun Interactive Aquarium and AMHMAR.

Protecting our species must remain our priority! Knowing the vaquita is the beginning of its conservation We must act before it is too late. We have the opportunity to do so by implementing actions to stop the warming of the oceans, excessive fishing, pollution, and promoting the sustainable use of marine resources.

Let's save the vaquita!

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References

Brownell, R.L., T.L. Findley, O. Vidal, A. Robles and N.S. Manzanill. (1987). External morphology and pigmentation of the vaquita, Phocoena sinus (Cetcea: Mammalia). Marine Mammal Science. 3(1):22-30.
 

Cárdenas-Hinojosa, G., Jaramillo-Legorreta, A., Nieto-García, E y Rojas-Bracho, L. (2019). La vaquita. Ciencia. Vol. 70 (3):48-55.

CONABIO. (2010). Fichas de especies prioritarias. Vaquita (Phocoena sinus) Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas y Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad, México D.F.

Robinson, J.A., Kyriazis, C.C., Nigenda-Morales, S.F., Beichman, A.C., Rojas-Bracho, L., Robertson, K.M., Fontaine, M.C., Wayne, R.K., Lohmueller, K.E., Taylor, B.L., Morin, P.A. (2022). The critically endangered vaquita is not doomed to extinction by inbreeding depression. Science 376: 635-639. doi:10.1126/science.abm1742

Rojas-Bracho, L., Booth C., Taylor B., Thomas L., Jaramillo-Legorreta A., Mesnick S., Gerrodette T and Henry A. (2021). Report on using expert elicitation to estimate total unique vaquitas and calves in the Zero Tolerance Area with recommendations for future research efforts. https://iucn-csg.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Vaquita-Expert-Elicitation-2021-Report-Final.pdf

SEMARNAT. (2010). Norma Oficial Mexicana NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010, Protección ambiental– Especies nativas de México de flora y fauna silvestres– Categorías de riesgo y especificaciones para su inclusión, exclusión o cambio– Lista de especies en riesgo. Diario Oficial de la Federación 30 diciembre, 2010.