The federal government has given approval to a compensation plan designed to protect the vaquita marina, a small porpoise threatened with extinction.
The two-year project will cost just over 1 billion pesos, or US $69 million, mostly in the form of payments to fishermen in San Felipe and Santa Clara in the upper Gulf of California.
There are fewer than 100 vaquitas remaining; they have survived the gillnets used by shrimp fishermen and the nets set for the totoaba, a fish whose swim bladder is prized in China.
Shutting down the fishing will eliminate the loss of further vaquita as bycatch.
Some of the funding will finance patrols — 35 annual inspections by boat and the deployment of three drones to conduct surveillance — to prevent illegal fishing.
The ban will affect 860 licence holders in Santa Clara and another 494 in San Felipe, communities where fishing is the chief source of income. But the newspaper Milenio reports that the compensation will not help women who work at processing the shrimp or others who are part of the production chain, such as mechanics and other suppliers of goods and services.
The Greenpeace Foundation’s Silvia Díaz, in charge of the Save the Vaquita program, has doubts about the government’s plan. She says there must be control measures for it to be effective. And if there is no reliable alternative for the communities and the fishermen, they will go back to fishing because that is all they know.
Others involved in the campaign to protect the vaquita say two years isn’t enough for them to recover.
There are hopes that researchers will be able to develop a vaquita-safe shrimp net during the two years, allowing those fishermen to go back to work.