The Vaquita Reserve, indicated in red, in the upper Sea of Cortés. The Vaquita Reserve, indicated in red, in the upper Sea of Cortés. Porpoise Conservation Society

More vaquitas remain than thought: Profepa

Government says scientific studies show there are at least 100

Counting porpoises is doubtless a challenging task but the federal environmental attorney declared this week that the number of remaining vaquita porpoises is higher than estimated earlier this year.

The environment secretariat has previously challenged the estimate by the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA) that only 30 of the porpoises remain.

On Thursday the head of the environmental agency Profepa said scientific studies have revealed there are at least 100.

Guillermo Haro said Profepa is preparing to capture that number of vaquitas in a program that will place them in a special protected area.

The vaquita, found only in the upper Sea of Cortés, is endangered largely due to its being caught as bycatch by fishermen seeking other species.

In February, Environment Secretary Rafael Pacchiano said his department’s earlier estimate that there were 60 porpoises remaining was tallied by observers on two vessels that employed more than 150 underwater microphones in an operation that cost 50 million pesos.

CIRVA concluded there were only half that number by using methods that were “totally different” from those used by federal authorities, Pacchiano said, emphasizing that it was important to use the same methodology.

However, he did not doubt there might be fewer vaquitas due to the fact that illegal fishing for another endangered species, the totoaba, continued. The vaquitas are bycatch victims in that gillnet fishery.

Despite the disagreement over numbers, the federal government continues to work with CIRVA and United States officials in the project to capture the vaquitas and place them in a reserve where they can be protected from illegal fishing and abandoned nets.

Their capture will be carried out by using U.S. Navy-trained dolphins.

Haro said that nearly every day federal authorities find four or five nets during their regular reconnaissance of the vaquita reserve.

However, the reconnaissance efforts have not been enough to prevent illegal fishing in the area, the biggest threat to the vaquita’s survival.

CIRVA describes the porpoise as the most endangered marine mammal in the world.

Source: Reforma (sp)

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