We need YOUR help to save the world’s smallest, most endangered cetacean! The Gulf of California harbor porpoise (Phocoena sinus), or vaquita marina, meaning “little sea cow” in Spanish, is only found in the murky waters of the northern Gulf of California, where it is swimming on the edge of extinction with only 30-odd individuals left.
Over many decades, the porpoise has been getting accidentally and fatally entangled in, legal and illegal, fishing nets. The situation today is dire, so much so that an international team of experts known as the VaquitaCPR team is currently working with the Mexican government to capture a few of the last remaining individuals and transferring them to a protected sea-pen, where they will hopefully be able to reproduce.
There is also an indefinite ban on gillnets in the vaquita’s habitat - the fishing gear with the greatest impact on the species. The government is policing the area and some are removing abandoned and illegal nets, but it is not enough; the habitat of the vaquita is very large and the incentives to fish are too strong. There are thousands of fishermen who must comply with the regulations, if the vaquita is to be recovered.
So how can we ensure the vaquita swims into the near future? We must first ensure that fishermen are able to feed their families, without using gillnets. Either we must find gear to replace gillnets with vaquita-safe fishing equipment for capturing fish and shrimp, or find alternative livelihoods. If fisherman have no options, they will simply keep fishing with this gear and more vaquitas will perish.
The Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans (CEDO), an organization with 37 years of experience in the region, is currently on the ground in the northern Gulf working side by side with the community to find a solution. When you give, your donation goes directly towards:
- Helping fishermen learn how to use new vaquita-safe gear that ensures they can feed their families, generating a new outlook towards compliance.
- Driving the system to change by connecting law-abiding fishermen to responsible seafood markets that reward their efforts.
- Conducting research to understand the socio-economic barriers and incentives that can help convince a critical majority of fishermen to rally around the cause and comply with regulations.
- Developing environmental education and outreach programs that promote community participation in the protection and recovery of the vaquita.
- Developing alternative livelihoods and training locals for new businesses opportunities in areas like ecotourism.
You CAN help. Just $25.00 a day will engage 5 fishermen in activities that will help ensure the survival of the vaquita marina.
Report from the Field
This grant helped provide the needed travel money to visit Upper Gulf of California communities of Golfo de Santa Clara and San Felipe, the communities that fish in the waters where the endangered vaquita lives. Fishermen have resisted making changes to alternative fishing gear. They want to continue fishing with gillnets, which are known to capture the vaquita. By visiting these communities and talking directly with fishermen we have been able to identify ways to involve them in finding alternatives ways to fish, like learning about the ecology of shrimp and how to use the Suripera net, a vaquita free alternative for shrimp fishing. We also have begun engaging other members of the community to get them involved in saving vaquita and in rebuilding their communities. Many groups are doing positive things and want to be involved in creating a sustainable future. We hope these initiatives will help fishermen support the ban on gillnets that can save the remaining vaquitas.
CEDO Intercultural is a 501c3 nonprofit based out of Tucson, AZ and Puerto Penasco, Mexico whose mission is to empower coastal communities in the Northern Gulf of California region with the knowledge and tools to create sustainable livelihoods that exist in concert with the surrounding natural and multicultural environment.
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