A totoaba, top, and vaquita after they were caught in a gillnet A totoaba, top, and vaquita after they were caught in a gillnet. omar vidal

‘Our last chance to save vaquita marina’

Study finds just 60 of the porpoises left, down from 97 in 2014

The vaquita marina, a porpoise found only in Mexican waters, is headed for extinction according to the latest estimate of their numbers.


The International Commission for the Recovery of the Vaquita and Semarnat, the Environment Secretariat, used acoustic devices to identify surviving vaquitas in the Sea of Cortés between September and December last year. The results were released yesterday: they found 60.

That figure is down from the 97 identified in 2014, which triggered a 1-billion-peso federal program primarily designed to pay fishermen not to fish. The vaquita has been a victim of the shrimp and totoaba fisheries, showing up as bycatch in gillnets.

The totoaba is also an endangered species but its swim bladder is a delicacy in China, and fetches a good price — as much as US $5,000 in the U.S.

Omar Vidal of the Mexico office of the World Wildlife Fund believes there are fewer vaquitas than the 60 counted in the survey. He told The Associated Press he believes the porpoise can be saved but “this is clearly our last chance.”

He said the Mexican, U.S. and Chinese governments need to take urgent and coordinated action to stop the illegal fishing, trafficking and consumption of totoaba products, and called on Mexico to ban all fishing in the upper Sea of Cortés, home to the vaquita.


Illegal fishing is believed to have continued despite funds allocated from the billion-peso program to pay for monitoring vaquita habitat. The program, initiated just over a year ago, has also been criticized for distributing unequally the compensation payments to fishermen.

Alejandro Olivera of the Center for Biological Diversity said most of the 2,700 fishermen received $220 to $40 a month but some got as much as $63,000.

Source: Milenio (sp), Associated Press (en)

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  • kallen

    A bunch of pre-schoolers in canoes could do a better job of protecting the vaquita than the Mexican government. The area of concern is small. Infra-red cameras can spot the heat signature of night-time poachers out on the ocean at night with little effort. If it’s not difficult than why are numbers continuing to dwindle? Because the Mexican government nd/or politicians are likely involved. By the thing is: If Mexico can’t do something simple like this how can it hope to tackle more significant changes like corruption, the cartels, rule of law, rampant pollution, education? It leaves only one explanation: Mexico continues to be a failed state.

    • Tony

      I’m curious as to what’s inciting this Mexico bashing, patronizing attitude of yours, something so easily done from a lofty Ivory perch. It could simply be that efforts to save the Vaquita came too late after the critical minimum number of sustainability was passed. In other words, despite the Mexican government’s good intentions, the ‘point of no return’ had already been passed.

      • kallen

        Lets look at some facts Tony. The precarious existence of the vaquita has been known for years. And now three vaquita found dead in three weeks (google for additional stats)….and how many in the weeks preceding? So your “just too late” theory is utter rubbish.

        Now lets talk about Mexican’s good intentions. What is needed is a fishing curfew at night – that’s a pretty simple thing to do. Then a single propeller driven airplane with radar and thermal imaging could cover the critical area in a given night and relay findings to ground crews who would finish the job – anybody there is immediately suspect. This too is pretty easy and inexpensive. Are you telling me the Mexican government doesn’t have a single propeller driven airplane with basic radar and thermal imaging? They have Blackhawk helicopters. They have tons of money to throw at public works projects (that lie unused and abandoned – thanks MND). Quare etiam sequitur, Mexico has no good intentions: it couldn’t care less….probably because they’re taking kickbacks from the Chinese. As a society, Mexico don’t understand the seriousness of extinction and they are robbing the planet of a valuable species not to mention they are denying their people a sustainable resource.

        I won’t coddle the Mexican government for allowing this to happen. They deserve to be hit and be hit hard for this failure.

        Poor Mexican government, they tried but they failed. Oh well, we’ll do better next time….maybe with the mining in the Monarch butterfly zone.

        • zillajratomicray

          A Blackhawk to patrol the Sea of Cortez? You have no clue what you’re talking about.

          • kallen

            I didn’t say that. Perhaps you should read (and think?) before you post.

    • Marlin

      Are you seriously that xenophobic? If you hate Mexico and want to start an anti-Mexico campaign, no one is stopping but I am telling you, you won’t get much support that you think. If you want fix the nation then I would love to hear your solutions instead of posting lies that is a failed state.

    • Marlin

      A failed state? Do you even live here? You speak like there is only black in whole Mexico, now I don’t know if some Mexican did something so bad to you to start an angry rant but no Mexican cares about your opinions. Now, if you want to fix Mexico show us the solutions instead of being part of the problem.

  • Somebody

    This seems to be the same old way of doing business down here in Mexico they always do something a day late. The fisherman didn’t do this the Mafia did this selling the swim bladders. Just like the Sea Cucumber in Progresso. This is big business with the Chinese. As always in Mexico there is no more money to be made so the government comes in and troughs some money at the problem so they can steal that to.

  • jaime

    I live down here and see the corruption that goes around. I have to agree with you on your findings/assumptions. The poor/lower working class people get stepped on by the rich/connected/political/cartel groups. No wonder nothing gets done in a timely manner or at all. Your’e right about all the unfinished projects also. I heard that for any given project, 30% of the money finds its way into corrupt pockets. Go figure.

  • Promontorium

    Fishing is what’s finishing it off. The elimination of the Colorado River Delta is what put the species on the path to extinction. Restore the delta, and you can save the species and increase the fishing supply.


  • PintorEnMexico
  • kallen

    Hey Marlin you better read up. I wish I could say I came up with the “failed state” prognosis but other countries, think tanks, universities, political and religious leaders and news organizations have said the same. Just do a quick search. But to answer your question, yes, I live half the year in Baja and so I do have personal experience. It is a failed state (or damn close to it). There is no rule of law. Criminal gangs run and rule the country. Police kill with impunity. There is low education. Unions hi-jack buses and take over interstates. There is massive pollution and (my favorite) they’re going to open a mine near a Monarch buttery reserve. Ha! It ranks near the bottom in (lack of) transparency and corruption. I don’t see anything getting better. My friends/citizens of Mexico agree with me on all these counts. Too bad, they’re good people in a bad system. Mexico doesn’t care because everyone is mostly in it for themselves and they don’t read these posts (or much else for that matter). There are plenty of solutions out there but they are an independent country and have chosen their own path and that’s why things are the way they are….the ones who want a different life go to the US.

  • manny

    It`s ease to say stop all fishing in San Felipe for all those people who are financial secure and don`t need to work or go after that peso to support a family, if any one of you run out of money you be in the middle of the ocean trying to cash a totoaba just like the fisherman do. Sure the mexican goberment gives the fisherman a little money but you try to feed a family of four with the money they get. good luck