Vaquita marina: in danger of extinction. Vaquita marina: in danger of extinction.

Marine activity halted in vaquita habitat

Upper Gulf of California ban is part of new recovery plan for the endangered species

A ban has been placed on all marine activity in the upper Gulf of California as part of efforts to save the vaquita marina porpoise from extinction.

The ban took effect yesterday and will end on December 17, and applies to all activities apart from those whose purpose is to aid the preservation of the world’s smallest known cetacean.

To be enforced by the secretariats of Navy, Agriculture, Environment and Tourism, the restriction is intended to facilitate a conservation, protection and recovery plan that is now in process, and one that might be the last stand in the fight to save the vaquita.

It entails the capture of specimens of the porpoise so they can be relocated to a 46-square-meter pen at the new Vaquita Care Center, located in San Felipe, Baja California, in the hope that they will breed and reverse the decline in numbers.

A team of four trained dolphins arrived last week to track the vaquita so they can be caught. An estimated 30 remain.

Since 1993, the upper Gulf of California has been considered by the Mexican government as a natural protected area due to the diversity, biological richness and productivity of the various ecosystems that are found in its waters. Many of the aquatic species found there are considered rare, endemic and in danger of extinction.

Meanwhile, conservation organizations in the United States continue to press retailers to stop buying Mexican shrimp in a campaign to pressure the Mexican government to impose a permanent ban on all gillnet fishing in the upper gulf. Vaquita have been a bycatch of commercial fishing.

The Animal Welfare Institute, one of the groups behind the Boycott Mexican Shrimp campaign, said yesterday that Trader Joe’s, a U.S. grocery store chain, had decided to stop buying shrimp from Mexico.

A partial ban on gillnets was introduced last June but the conservation groups claim it’s not enough because two fisheries are exempt from it.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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