The Trump Administration Just Got Sued for Failing to Protect Critically Endangered Porpoises

Conservation and animal advocacy organizations are taking the Trump administration to court for failing to protect the world’s smallest and rarest porpoise, the vaquita, from extinction.

The vaquita only exist in a small area in the Gulf of California, off the coast of Mexico. Despite past efforts to protect them their numbers have continued to decline at an alarming rate.

Today, there are believed to be fewer than 30 individuals left in existence, and extinction is becoming an increasingly likely scenario.

One of the main threats they face is being killed as by-catch, when they get entangled in gillnets that are used to catch shrimp and other fish. They’re also suffering as a result of illegal fishing targeting endangered totoaba for its swim bladder, which is used in Chinese medicine and is also considered a delicacy.

The scientific consensus is that if there’s any hope of saving the vaquita, gillnets have to go, but Mexico has failed to take meaningful action.

Last year, the Animal Welfare Institute, Center for Biological Diversity and Natural Resources Defense Council filed an emergency petition seeking a ban on Mexican seafood caught in the vaquita’s range using gillnets, but they never got a response.

Now, they’ve filed a lawsuit in federal court to get that ban, arguing that the Departments of Commerce, Treasury, and Homeland Security are violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), specifically regarding how it relates to foreign fishing practices.

Under the MMPA, the government is required to ban seafood imports from fisheries that kill or injure marine mammals at a rate above U.S. standards, which Mexico is clearly exceeding, yet nothing has been done.

According to the groups, gillnets are now killing about 50 percent of the population every year, while scientists predict they could go extinct, possibly as soon as next, year if drastic action isn’t taken.

“This is the dolphin-tuna fish story all over again, only the situation is even more dire,” said Giulia Good Stefani, staff attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, “If we don’t put immediate pressure on Mexico to manage its Baja fisheries in a sustainable way, we will lose this porpoise forever. This lawsuit might be the vaquita’s last chance.”

Ultimately, the groups hope that the lawsuit will put enough pressure on the Mexican government to permanently ban gillnets and to strongly enforce that ban.

“The United States is a leading importer of fish products caught in the upper Gulf of California,” said Susan Millward, director of the Animal Welfare Institute’s marine animal program. “Banning imports of gillnet-caught seafood from vaquita habitat would remove a key incentive for the ongoing use of this destructive fishing gear in the region. The US seafood market should not be contributing to the extinction of a species.”

For more on how to help, check out Boycott Mexican Shrimp and Sea Shepherd’s Operation Milagro IV.

Photo credit: Todd Pusser/MMC

116 comments

Jack Y
Jack Y1 months ago

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Jack Y
Jack Y1 months ago

thanks

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John J
John J1 months ago

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John J
John J1 months ago

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Marie W
Marie W9 months ago

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KimJ M
KimJ Mabout a year ago

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KimJ M
KimJ Mabout a year ago

TYFS

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KimJ M
KimJ Mabout a year ago

TYFS

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KimJ M
KimJ Mabout a year ago

TYFS

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KimJ M
KimJ Mabout a year ago

TYFS

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