California: Please Help Save the Vaquita Porpoise

Action

None needed at this time.

Update

Despite passing successfully out of the California House and all relevant California Senate committees, the bill was ordered to the inactive file on September 12, 2017 by Senator Benjamin Allen pending further discussion with stakeholders.

Photo of the endangered vaquita - Photo by Tom Jefferson

Dear Humanitarian,

On April 4, the California Assembly's Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife will meet to discuss AB 1151, a bill concerning vaquita-harmful fish and fish products. Introduced by Assemblymember Todd Gloria, AB 1151 would make it illegal to possess or sell fish or fish products from the Upper Gulf of California caught using any type of gillnet. Gillnets are the greatest threat to the critically endangered vaquita porpoise.

The vaquita population has declined by more than 90 percent since 1990, and the most recent population estimate indicates that only approximately 30 of these tiny porpoises remain. The sharp decline in the population is directly attributable to the use of gillnets in their habitat, and AB 1151 seeks to ensure that Californians are not contributing to the vaquita's extinction. Given that California is a major importer of fish products caught in vaquita habitat, banning the sale of gillnet-caught fish from the Upper Gulf will help remove an economic incentive for the continued use of gillnets.

Mexico has banned some, but not all, gillnet use in the Upper Gulf. Fishing for corvina with gillnets is still permitted. Fishermen engaged in illegal fishing for the totoaba (an endangered fish whose swim bladders are highly sought after on Asian markets) use the corvina fishing exception as a cover to set gillnets. These nets continue to entangle and drown vaquita. Just last week another vaquita was found dead, with signs of scarring consistent with gillnet entanglement.