Fewer than 30 vaquita porpoise are left in Mexico's northern Gulf of California, and experts have said that if the government of Mexico does not enact a permanent ban on the use of all gillnets, the vaquita will be extinct in less than three years. For decades, this tiny cetacean has been killed by entanglement in gillnet fishing gear used to catch shrimp for the US market. More recently, gillnets have also been used illegally to catch totoaba, an endangered fish whose swim bladder is in high demand in Asia.
In 2015, Mexico established a two-year ban on gillnet use within the vaquita's range, but enforcement efforts have failed to stem the precipitous decline in the vaquita population. Illegal fishing vessels, including shrimp boats, continue to ply the waters of the Vaquita Refuge, a no fishing zone. A loophole in the ban has also permitted some fishers to continue to use gillnets legally, a situation that has served as a cover for additional illegal fishing.
On June 30, 2017, the government of Mexico announced that it was implementing a permanent ban on gillnet fishing in the Upper Gulf of California. There are some positive aspects to the new ban, such as limits on landing sites and the mandatory use of vessel monitoring systems. Unfortunately, the agreed plan expands the gillnet exemption to include an additional fishery and fails to ban the possession, sale and manufacture of gillnets in the region.
The government of Mexico has failed yet again to make a commitment to a complete and permanent ban on all gillnet fisheries in the Upper Gulf of California. Time is running out for the vaquita, and decisive action is needed. Please join the Boycott Mexican Shrimp campaign, and help send the strongest possible message to the Mexican government that it must act now.
Make your voice heard through your purchasing decisions: Pledge not to buy Mexican shrimp until Mexico ensures that all deadly gillnets are removed from the vaquita's habitat. For more information on how you can take action, please visit the BoycottMexicanShrimp.com website. On the site, you can take the pledge and send letters to Mexican officials and companies known to buy shrimp from Mexico.
Do you live in the DC Metro Area? Come join us for a rally to save the Vaquita on July 6!
In addition, we urge you to consider participating in an International Save the Vaquita Day event in your area. A rally will be held outside the Mexican Embassy in Washington, DC, on Thursday, July 6, from 8:00-10:30AM. Events in other locations will occur on Saturday, July 8. A full list can be found here.
Be sure to share our Dear Humanitarian eAlert with family, friends and co-workers and encourage them to join the Boycott Mexican Shrimp campaign. As always, thank you very much for your help!
Illustration by Frédérique Lucas