Medellín: crime and corruption behind vaquita decline. Medellín: impunity has led to vaquita decline.

Crime and corruption scourge of the vaquita

Authorities have failed to enforce the law, academic charges

The dual scourges of corruption and organized crime are behind the near-extinction of the vaquita marina porpoise, according to an academic at the National Autonomous University (UNAM).


Rodrigo Medellín said yesterday that authorities have failed to enforce the law to prosecute people who engage in the illegal practices of totoaba fishing and trafficking, suggesting that impunity is linked to corruption in the nation’s law enforcement agencies.

“The federal government has invested a lot of money in the protection strategy for the vaquita marina; in 2015 alone it invested [US] $70 million, but it hasn’t been enough because organized crime has been a factor that has affected this species,” he said.

The researcher at the UNAM Institute of Ecology added, “the application of justice is needed, the laws we have are good; however, we need to enforce them.”

The vaquita porpoises are often bycatch in the gill nets used in the upper Gulf of California to catch totoaba, whose swim bladder is considered both a delicacy and an aphrodisiac in China and can fetch prices that make it more lucrative than cocaine.

A 2017 investigation by the non-governmental organization Environmental Investigation Agency determined that eight criminal groups with links to drug cartels and human-trafficking organizations control the illegal fishing and trafficking of the species.

To increase prosecution rates, Medellín also said that more environmental legislation training is required in Mexico’s law enforcement agencies.


“There is a lack of law enforcement [and] legal knowledge, and what’s also needed is for prosecutor’s offices to be able to get appropriate evidence so that the judge has everything [required] to put the criminals in jail,” Medellín said.

The researcher also said that better international cooperation between Mexico, the United States and China is needed, not just to stop trafficking of totoaba, but also to reduce demand for its swim bladder.

Trinational talks between the countries last year led to the creation of a task force, while Mexican authorities have also implemented new measures to save the vaquita, such as a recent program which aimed to capture the porpoises and protect and breed them in captivity.

However, it was scrapped after the death of a female vaquita and the capture of an immature calf that had to be released after it showed signs of stress.

But last month, the head of the federal Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) asserted that the endangered species “would not disappear” and that efforts to save the vaquita porpoise are continuing.

It is estimated that there are only around 30 vaquitas remaining. Their plight has captured the attention of some high-profile names, including actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Mexico’s richest man, Carlos Slim, who last year signed an agreement to save the critically endangered porpoise.

A march called “Procession in Honor of the Vaquita Marina” to raise further awareness about the mammal’s dire predicament will be held tomorrow in Mexico City.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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  • WestCoastHwy

    “THIS IS MEXICO”! Do you really expect something else besides crime and corruption?

    • Patricia Conner

      yes i do. Mexico has a highly respected environment programs especially in the sea of cortez and Baja south. The Mexican spent a lot of money and but they are always criticized.. Through Mexican and China diplomatic negotiations , it is illegal to import the toaba without papers to prove where and how IN CHINA. That will take time to enforce. .IT IS ALWAYS EASY TO BLAME THE CARTEL AND MEXICAN JUDICIAL SYSTEM. But the problem is not the just the Cartel but also the fishermen with the lost of jobs starting way back before the vaquita,. There are problems with the nutrients in water and the big fishing rigs are replacing the small. The good news is that the Vaquita or should be soon in a bay near san felipe that is now a sanctuary The sea sheppard and the authorities still patrol the bay and the fishermen are finally accepting that they can not blame everything on the Vaquita and survive. Let us hope the problems can be worked out what ever they may be. .

  • kallen

    I think I’ve just been censored by Mexico News Daily. I wrote a rebuttal to Patrica Connner (not mean-spirited) in support of R. Medellin’s conclusions concerning the vaquita; it was never published. I wonder what this says about Mexico News Daily being a reliable and unbiased source for Mexico news?