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Vaquita rescue program suspended

The Vaquita CPR program has suspended operations after the death of a caught specimen; officials are awaiting necropsy results
Vaquita porpoise specimen - File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
08/11/2017
16:00
Astrid Rivera
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After the death of a vaquita specimen which was caught last weekend, the capture of more individuals has been suspended until a team of experts determines the measures to be taken, according to Lorenzo Rojas Bracho, director of the Vaquita CPR Program (Preservation, Protection, and Recovery Program).

In an interview with EL UNIVERSAL, Rojas Bracho explained the results of the necropsy of the specimen – which died after it was captured – will take two weeks, and all rescue operations have been suspended in the meantime.

“We're working with an international panel. We sent them a report with the suggestion of suspending further capture efforts; we don't know if we got this reaction because this was an old female individual or if all adults react similarly,” he said.

“Experience told us this is a difficult species to handle outside of its habitat. If we had 200 vaquitas and we lost 10, we could keep trying, but we cannot afford to lose one given the size of our sample,” he added.

The results of the necropsy will help shed light on whether this female specimen died due to her old age or due to the stress of the capture.

Rojas remarked that since the Vaquita CPR Program was planned, they knew there was a great risk because this species had never been captured, but the program was a measure to “buy time” while gill nets were removed and other fishing techniques implemented which didn't endanger the vaquita porpoise.

He has also informed that despite efforts, illegal fishing of Totoaba continues in the area and that the survival of the vaquita depends highly on eradicating this problem.

“The prices of the Totoaba fish bladder exceed those of cocaine,” the also president of the International Committee for the Preservation of the Vaquita said, admitting the complexity of the problem.

Rojas Bracho confirmed search operations will continue until November 11 to try and identify the total number of individuals remaining.

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