Urgent global action needed to halt vaquita extinction

(The Philippine Star) - June 14, 2017 - 4:00pm

MEXICO CITY – With an estimated 30 or fewer individuals remaining, the vaquita are the focus of new WWF analysis released recently calling for immediate collective action to protect the species.

The world’s most endangered marine mammal urgently needs a coordinated global effort to save it, and prevent irreversible damage to the Gulf of California World Heritage site so that the vaquita and other species can thrive along with local communities. 

“Vanishing vaquita: Saving the world’s most endangered marine mammal,” an analysis commissioned by WWF, sets out a critical path for securing the vaquita and comes just as a two-year ban on gillnets, identified as the single biggest threat to the species, expired at the end of May.

Despite some efforts by the Mexican government, to date it has been unable to demonstrate effective enforcement of this temporary ban and this has resulted in unabated illegal gillnet fishing, causing vaquita populations to decline by 90 percent between 2011 and 2016.  

“Having discovered the vaquita less than 60 years ago, we humans have now brought it to the brink of extinction. Their incredibly low numbers are a stark reminder of how our efforts to protect this incredible species and its habitat are falling short. Unless we act decisively today, we could lose the vaquita forever,” said Jorge Rickards, acting CEO, WWF-Mexico.  

Known as the “panda of the sea” because of its distinctive markings, the vaquita is endemic to the Upper Gulf of California.

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