A protected area in the upper Gulf of California has been enlarged by 45% as the latest measure in efforts to protect the endangered vaquita porpoise.
Environment Secretary Rafael Pacchiano Alemán announced yesterday the vaquita sanctuary now takes in an area of 1,841 square kilometers.
The move responds to a request by the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA), which has documented sightings of the small marine mammal outside the limits of the reserve.
The largest concentration of vaquitas has been recorded in the western portion of the upper Gulf, off San Felipe.
The Mexican representative of the Center for Biological Diversity welcomed the news of the expansion, but expressed regret that it had not been done many years ago.
Alejandro Olivera said it was known that the first protected area, established in 2005, did not take in the entire habitat of the vaquita.
And even today it still doesn’t, he said.
But in reality, he said, to save the vaquita it is necessary to eliminate all gillnet fishing in the area of its habitat and stop the trafficking in totoaba swim bladders, an expensive delicacy in Asia and a lucrative product for both fishermen and organized crime.
While official estimates indicate that some 30 specimens remain in the wild, the environmental organization Elephant Action League (EAL) reported last month that it believed there were only about a dozen vaquitas left.