Vaquita marina: rescue efforts continue. Vaquita marina: rescue efforts continue.

Efforts continue to save vaquita porpoise

Removing old nets, stopping poachers are focus of environment officials

Environmental authorities say they are determined to save the vaquita marina porpoise from extinction, despite the failure to curb a steady decline in the population in the last several years.

Yesterday, the head of the federal Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) asserted that the endangered species, endemic to a small area in the northern Sea of Cortés, “would not disappear.”

Semarnat staff remain working in the area, Rafael Pacchiano Alemán said, where they have been able to successfully collect tissue and blood samples from the vaquita for further study.

The reduced porpoise population, estimated to be fewer than 30, continues to be monitored acoustically to determine their favored swimming routes. The data will then be used to deploy Navy personnel to conduct surveillance and keep poachers at bay.

“We continue to eliminate nets left or lost in the ocean by fishermen, we continue to work on extending the acoustic monitoring in order to have real-time data on the location [of groups of vaquitas] and deploy the Secretariat of Navy accordingly,” Pacchiano said.

The department’s original plan was not only to keep vaquitas in captivity for reproduction but to create a safe environment for them in the open sea, one without ghost nets or illegal totoaba fishing. “We’re moving forward on the latter step, creating that safe environment,” the secretary said.

Environment officials are also working on a totoaba captivity breeding program, with the double aim of creating a legal market for the fish and thwarting poaching.

The most recent project to save the vaquita  was a program intended to capture as many porpoises as possible and transport them to a floating pen to protect them from totoaba poachers and breed them in captivity. 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.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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