To never be seen again

The marine vaquita species is critically endangered and Mexico could've done something several years ago to prevent it

Vaquita caught in net - File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
English 28/08/2017 09:00 Mexico City Newspaper Leader by EL UNIVERSAL Actualizada 09:06
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The disappearance of an Earth species is not just a symptom that we, as a “thinking” species, aren't interested in maintaining the balance of the natural order of our planet, but also a sign that we care little about the consequences of such an action. The situation is even more pressing when timely warnings were given and attempts were made to preserve it.

Several years ago, diverse environmental organizations began to warn about the endangered status of the vaquita porpoise, a species that can only be found in the Gulf of California. Even if it cannot be accurately determined, estimates until a few months ago said there were only a total of 50 vaquita individuals left.

The fate of the vaquita species is, sadly, intertwined with that of another endangered species: the totoaba, a rare fish found only in the Sea of Cortés and whose swim bladder is in high demand in China due to its aphrodisiac and medicinal properties. A kilogram of the totoaba's swim bladder can be sold for up to 60 thousand dollars. For this reason, criminal gangs have taken control of a portion of the illegal fishing. The fishermen use nets to fish the totoaba, remove its swim bladder, and throw the rest back into the sea. Unfortunately, several marine species are also caught in the nets and die – the vaquita among them.

Even though the Mexican Government established preservation measures in April 2015, the efforts haven't been successful, despite satellite images, drones and underwater cameras were offered to assist in this endeavor.

Today, Greenpeace will present a report, to which this newspaper had access to, stating that the critically endangered status of the vaquita species is attributable to the negligence and omission of the authorities to implement public policies and their inability to resolve internal and structural conflicts between the environmental and fishing sectors that “instead of coordinating [their efforts], they contradict each other.”

The scale of the problem has led Mexico, China and the United States to sign an agreement to collaborate in the identification of and fight against traffic routes and modus operandi of the gangs illegally trading totoaba. Even if the other countries will collaborate in their capacity as destiny and transit nations, respectively, Mexico could have done something several years ago to control his situation.

Official efforts to preserve the vaquita aren't recent. Often enough, they are just renewed and a greater commitment is announced, but ultimately the objectives are never met. If Mexico undeniably fails in this enterprise, our planet will – literally – never be the same

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