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The Critically Endangered Vaquita


“ Mankind must cease harming the harmless ”


Vaquita is a species of porpoise endemic to the northern end of the Gulf of California in Baja California, Mexico. Averaging 150 cm or 140 cm in length, it is the smallest of all living cetaceans. Vaquita is known as the world’s rarest marine mammal and it is on the edge of extinction. The animal wasn’t discovered until 1958 and a little over half a century later, we might be losing them, forever with only 10 individuals remaining.


Vaquita (Wikipedia Commons)

Vaquitas aren't explicitly being hunted or poached, but their numbers are being drastically affected by unsustainable and illegal fishing practices, particularly due to bycatch from illegal fishing operations in marine protected areas within Mexico’s Gulf of California. Vaquitas share waters with the much sought-after totoaba fish and fishing nets inadvertently catch and drown the porpoise. In 2017, Mexico tried a plan proposed by an expert. This has helped many other endangered species in the past to capture vaquita and house it in a safe enclosure near the coast. The idea was to help Vaquitas breed safely while trying to control illegal totoaba fishing. But the plan didn't work. Unless the gillnet is completely and quickly removed from the sanctuary, these rare porpoises can become extinct by the end of the decade.


Vaquitas (Square Space)

Vaquitas exist as both predator and prey in their natural habitat. Being the archer and the prey upon the marine ecosystem. Preyed upon by members of the shark family, Vaquitas serve as important food sources for top predators. It is extremely likely that the decline in the Vaquita population has already had negative impacts on the other species of the Gulf. If there are no vaquitas, there will be fewer animals to prey upon small and medium-sized fish, as well as squid and crustaceans. Vaquitas are opportunistic feeders, and have been known to eat dozens of species of fish and other fauna.


The vaquita is a clear symbol of Mexico's natural diversity. It is a well-known fact that Mexico has a negative public opinion, thanks to drug cartels, kidnappings and other unpleasant activities. But if Mexico shows an interest in its ecosystem by writing one of our greatest nature maintenance success stories, it will greatly help its reputation. The extinction of vaquita could lead to massive public protests against the Mexican government and fishermen, which could have a devastating impact on the Mexican economy at this point.


Action is the antidote to despair, so here are a few ways to help the species :

  • Tell your friends and the society, it is crucial that people know about what is happening to the vaquitas. Not only does that put a pressure on the Mexican government to act but it also raises awareness for some of the issues that not only affect vaquita, but porpoises in general and countless other species as well

  • Shopping for sustainable seafood, entanglement in fishing nets is what is driving this species to extinction, and it is also the most dangerous threat for all 6 of the other species.

  • Sign petitions and write to the elected officials to ban Gill-net Fishing in the Sea of Cortez

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