Vaquita Marina and the efforts to save it!
by Eduardo Flores Campbell from San Diego Red
The Vaquita Marina is a very small cetacean that inhabits only the upper Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. Its peaceful existence has begun to be threatened, primarily because of nets used by coastal fishermen. Failure to take the necessary measures to correct this immediately will affect the population of this unusual species which will, otherwise, have little chance of survival.
These mammals are related to whales and dolphins; the adults could measure up to five feet long and weigh up to 100 kilos. They are gray and have an uneven dark spot around their eyes, lip area and chin. The young mammals are characterized by being a little darker and its fin is similar to that of sharks. They feed on fish and their natural predators are the orca and sharks.
The Vaquitas live in a very small area which makes it one of the species on the planet with limited reproduction rates.
Their home is composed of an area in the northern sector of the Gulf of California, the Mexican states of Baja California and Sonora, facing the Colorado River delta.
During the month of December, some restaurants in Mexicali and Tijuana organized events to celebrate the conservation efforts that have been established for this species, while at the same time promoting the consumption of shrimp that are caught by using different methods in the Port of San Felipe, Baja California.
SanDiegoRed.com had the opportunity to interview Ramses Rodriguez, representative of Pronatura Mexico, during an event held at the restaurant “Mision 19,”at which the six-course menu was prepared with shrimp — ‘Vaquita-friendly’ — by the renowned chef Javier Plascencia.
“We work in partnership with local chefs, chefs from Mexicali, Baja California, who are concerned about the environment, and the quality of food they give to their guests,” said the representative of Pronatura.
It has been proven that the most frequent cause of death for Vaquitas is that they become entangled in fishing nets called “chinchorros” (hammock style nets), mainly used to catch fish and shrimp. By being entangled in these nets, the vaquita has no way to get to the water’s surface to breathe and ends up drowning.
“Currently what we are doing in Pronatura is developing alternative fishing methods, with people of San Felipe and with local fishermen who are concerned about the conservation of the vaquita,” said Rodriguez, noting that the IUCN (Unión Internacional para la Conservación de la Naturaleza — which roughly translates to the International Union for Conservation of Natural Resources — which compiles the list of threatened and endangered species worldwide, believes that this marine organism is one of the most likely to be doomed to extinction caused by humans.
He added, “The last census was conducted in the year 2000, at which time we had thought that there were about 600 hundred of this species left; but in 2006 and 2007, it was estimated that there were only 150 left. ”
The figures are frightening. The good news is that some fishermen in the region are already changing the way they do things, and have become more aware of the damage that has been caused to the ecosystem due to carelessness. Companies like “San Felipe Seafood” are now composed of fishermen who are committed to the environment, and the label “Vaquita-friendly” is beginning to be known in the region. The next time you visit a restaurant when you order shrimp, do not forget to ask for it.
Video : Gerardo.Cornejo@sandiegored.com
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