The vaquita porpoise is the focus of a letter by scientists to President López Obrador. The vaquita porpoise is the focus of a letter by scientists to President López Obrador.

Scientists call on AMLO to save vaquita with ban on possession of gillnets

Banning their use has been almost impossible to enforce

A group of prominent scientists has issued an appeal to President López Obrador to issue a ban on possessing gillnets in the upper Gulf of California to save the endangered vaquita porpoise.

Mexico has banned the use of gillnets in the area but enforcing the ban has proved almost impossible.

So the scientists have urged a ban on their possession, which could be enforced by inspecting fishboats before they leave shore.

“This is the only practical option for effectively enforcing the law,” wrote the letter’s signatories, who include Barbara Taylor, a conservation biologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States, and Omar Vidal, representative in Mexico of the World Wildlife Fund.

The letter also stressed the need to protect the vaquitas remaining in the wild, a daunting task that the latest research suggests can still be accomplished.

During an inspection visit carried out in September in the Gulf of California, specialists sighted six or seven vaquita specimens, including a cow with its calf.

Observations suggest that vaquitas live concentrated in a 20 by 40-kilometer area, small enough to be protected with buoys that would impede the entry of fishboats.

Gillnets that are used to fish illegally for totoaba — another endemic fish species from the Gulf of California whose swim bladder is considered a delicacy in Asia — have led to the drastic decline in numbers of the vaquita porpoise, leading to its near extinction.

“Your administration can save the vaquita and set an example for Mexico and the world,” the scientists wrote to López Obrador.

Source: Associated Press (sp)

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