A new sanctuary for the vaquita porpoise

The Nest is the unprecedented effort by the Mexican Government to save an endangered species, says Minister of the Environment, Rafael Pacchiano
Vaquita porpoise – File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
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After the number of individuals of the world's most rare marine mammal reached 30, several preservation efforts have been set in place to provide a safe environment for the vaquita porpoise.

This endangered species, found only in Mexico's Gulf of California, was led to the brink of extinction as it got caught in the gillnets illegal fishermen use to catch another rare species, the totoaba – highly valuable in the Chinese market due to its alleged medicinal properties.

Given the critical situation, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto decided to impose a permanent ban on this type of nets. Yet this is not the only measure taken.

On October 5, the Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources, Rafael Pacchiano, informed dolphins from the U.S. Navy had been deployed to locate the vaquitas in an operation seeking to find and guide the remaining individuals into a marine sanctuary in San Felipe, Baja California.

Once there, several scientists and experts will analyze the feasibility of the vaquita repopulation at the Vaquita Care Center, comprised of laboratories and offices where scientists will also go through the data gathered from the search & rescue operations, set to conclude on November 11.

At the sanctuary, the vaquitas will be monitored for the next 48 hours to assess their overall health and vital signs, and following the medical "check-up", the individuals will be moved to an enclosure of a 45-meter radius.

The Marine Station of Search, Rescue, and Surveillance in San Felipe is an unprecedented effort undertaken by the Mexican Government to save an endangered species, said Mr. Pacchiano at the opening of the sancturay, part of the Vaquita Preservation, Protection, and Recovery Program (Vaquita CPR).

The Nest, as the sanctuary is called, was moved months ago from Ensenada in the Baja California Peninsula by a ship from the Museum of the Whale, and stands ready to receive the first vaquita individuals.

All fishing and touristic activities will remain restricted in the area until December 17, 2017.


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