Scientists Estimate There Are Just 10 Vaquita Porpoises Left in Existence

While conservationists have continued to warn us that we could lose the world’s smallest and rarest porpoise if we don’t take immediate action, a troubling new scientific report has raised even more concerns about their imminent extinction with the conclusion that there are likely only 10 left in existence.

Theporpoise in question, who is otherwise known as thevaquita, only exist in a small area in the Gulf of California, off the coast of Mexico. Despite pasteffortsto protect them, their numbers have continued todeclineat an alarming rate.

The latest population estimate, which was just released by the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA), is that there are just 10 remaining vaquita, with no more than 22, but possibly as few as six.

The biggest problem they now face is beingkilledas bycatch when they getentangledin gillnets that are used to catchshrimpand other fish, and they’re also suffering as a result ofillegal fishingtargeting endangered totoaba for its swim bladder, which is used in Chinese medicine and is also considered a delicacy. According to CIRVA, they are sold in China for prices that can reach $46,000 USD per kg on the black market.

Sadly, the report was released just days after what is believed to be the first vaquita death in 2019 after Sea Shepherd found a decomposed body while its crew was out removing illegal gillnets.

“The organized criminal networks trafficking totoaba swim bladders from Mexico to China are responsible for the illegal fishing nets driving the vaquita to extinction,” said Clare Perry, ocean campaign leader for the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). “Unless Mexico gets serious about enforcement and works with China and key transit countries to dismantle those networks, there is no hope for the remaining vaquita.”

While Mexico has taken some action, including banning gillnets within the vaquita’s range, enforcement has been lacking and violence by illegal fishermen against conservationists and officials have hindered conservation efforts.

Despite the dire situation they’re in, scientists are still optimistic they can be saved. They’re still reproducing, and the individuals who are left are believed to be healthy. The area they still exist in is also relatively small, considering, which should make enforcement of a gillnet ban easier.

CIRVA is calling on Mexico to immediately fund and expand net removal efforts and provide protection for removal teams in a Zero Tolerance Area where vaquita are still found, provide 24-hour surveillance, and arrest and prosecute illegal fishermen, while also calling for long-term solutions that include safer fishing practices and creating alternative livelihoods for local communities.

“There is only the tiniest sliver of hope remaining for the vaquita,” said Kate O’Connell, marine wildlife consultant with the Animal Welfare Institute. “Mexico must act decisively to ensure that all gillnet fishing is brought to an end throughout the Upper Gulf. If the vaquita is not immediately protected from this deadly fishing gear, it will go extinct on President Lopez Obrador’s watch.”

Photo credit: Chris Johnson/MMC

60 comments

Mark Donner
Mark Donner27 days ago

Any wildlife in Asian countries like greedy vicious China are doomed. The Yangstze dolphin couldn't survive in that polluted river and is officially extinct. China's disgusting government couldn't care less.

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Mark Donner
Mark Donner27 days ago

CIRVA is calling on Mexico to immediately fund and expand net removal efforts and provide protection for removal teams in a Zero Tolerance Area where vaquita are still found, provide 24-hour surveillance, and arrest and prosecute illegal fishermen.

This is exactly what Mexico should be doing RIGHT NOW with its navy and coast guard.

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Amy Haber
Amy Haber27 days ago

this is going to lead to more animals being endangered since there is a food chain.

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Berenice Guedes de Sá

WE need to reduce our number in this world , or nothing will remain in here!

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Berenice Guedes de Sá

I do agree with words said by Leanne K. In one way or other we're all responsible for this tragedy!!!

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Berenice Guedes de Sá

THis is very very sad! I

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Gene J
Gene J28 days ago

10. Does it matter if they are still reproducing? Those ridiculous Asian ideas about the "magical" powers of so many endangered species are the issue here as well as those who kill these wonderful creatures for profit with no thought to the future. There is no species on this planet that does not have purpose, it would not exist if it didn't. Yet we are so cavalier about protecting all of the planet from the virus called homo sapiens that has invaded it and spread throughout the ecosystem. We know not what we do, what's worse is that we, many of us, don't care.

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Virgene L
Virgene L28 days ago

I dreamed of porpoises last night. To lose these would be so sad. Please use exclusion gear. Thank you.

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David J
David J28 days ago

This is their fate sealed!

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Marija M
Marija M28 days ago

So very very sad...

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