Two years ago, scientists estimated that only 100 vaquita porpoises remained in Mexico’s Upper Gulf of California. In April 2015, as vaquitas continued to die due to entanglement in fishing gear, the Mexican government proposed a two-year ban on gillnets in the Gulf. But the ban has not been fully enforced, and an exemption allowing for gillnet use by the corvina fishery has provided cover for illegal fishing for totoaba, a fish highly prized on Asian black markets.
Current estimates indicate only 30 vaquita remain. Despite a 2016 promise from Mexico’s President Peña Nieto to permanently ban gillnets, they continue to blanket the Upper Gulf in staggering numbers. To make matters worse, it was announced in February 2017 that corvina fishing will continue.
Other species of marine mammals have recovered from such low numbers, but the vaquita is clearly on the brink of extinction, and immediate action is needed. AWI is working with partner organizations to exert political and consumer pressure on the government of Mexico to ensure that the promised ban is enacted and enforced.