/ Modified apr 5, 2022 5:13 p.m.

Conservation group says waters less risky for endangered vaquita porpoise

The group partnered with the Mexican Navy to bring down the number of fishing nets in Mexico's Vaquita Refuge

vaquita in water hero The vaquita is a critically endangered porpoise that lives in the northern part of the Sea of Cortez. It is considered the smallest and most endangered cetacean in the world.
Paula Olson/NOAA

A conservation group said it is making progress with the help of the Mexican Navy towards making a section of Mexico’s Upper Gulf of California more livable for the endangered vaquita porpoise.

Pritam Singh with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said the partnership aims to bring down the number of panga boats and fishing nets in what’s called the Zero Tolerance Area of Mexico’s Vaquita Refuge.

Fishing gear is a major threat to the vaquita’s survival.

Since last fall, the group’s daily panga count dropped from 40-60 a day, down to the single digits.

"That is the trend we're at," Singh said. "That is great news because that means there's less nets in this very important area and that helps to give the vaquita a chance."

The organization reported that as of last November, there are likely seven or eight adult vaquitas and two calves in the refuge.

Sea Shepherd used to pull nets out of the water itself, as members of the Mexican Navy provided security. Now, the organization reports boats and nets to the Navy, and it pulls them.

"The Navy has more authority, frankly, than we do, ever did," Singh said. "And even though we were authorized to do it, their doing it is just simply more effective."

The U.S. filed a complaint under the U.S.-Canada-Mexico Agreement in February saying Mexico is not doing enough to stop the illegal fishing that threatens the vaquita porpoise.

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