An immediate extension of a fishing ban is desperately needed to save the vaquita, who’s population is as low as 30 individuals.
Its species could die out in the months to come. The vaquita marina, which already holds the title of the rarest cetacean in the world , could be the victim of the success of a fish that shares the same habitat, the totoabas, which is a common fish in China.
This illegal trade precipitates the vaquita towards extinction, as the Guardian explains , in an article on the undercover investigation that was devoted to it. “There are only 30 vaquitas left in the northern Gulf of Mexico today, and the marine conservationists have warned that the population has been almost completely eradicated by the pirate fishermen who hunt totoabas and kill the vaquitas during the process.
The totoabas is fished for its swim bladder, to the so-called medicinal virtues, which sells very high price on the Chinese black market. In Shantou, Guandong province, its price per kilo would be $ 20,000, hence its nickname ” aquatic cocaine “.
“Demand is strong and stable, prices go up,” said Andrea Costa, member of the Elephant Action League who conducted the totoabas investigation, in the British daily newspaper. “The application of the law is very low because it is not an absolute priority, probably because it involves rich and powerful people,” he added.
Firm and effective measures called for
The totoabas are captured in mesh gillnets, despite the ban on their use by the Mexican government. These nets are at the origin of the death of the vaquitas, but the illegal fishing of the fishes with the golden bladders is far too remunerative to be stopped, in spite of the action of the organizations of defense of the animals.
Chris Gee, head of campaigns at WWF-UK, said:
“Time is rapidly running out for the vaquita, we could tragically lose the ‘panda of the sea’ in a matter of months.
“We need the public’s help now to motivate the Mexican government to act to protect the species and the World Heritage site that provides home to the vaquita.
“The last hope for the species is the Mexican government immediately putting in place and properly enforcing a permanent ban on gillnets.
“This will also help safeguard this precious World Heritage site and the livelihoods of the local people who depend on it.”
According to Chris Gee, WWF, the latest vaquitas could disappear in the coming months. “The last hope for these species would be for the Mexican government to put in place a permanent and effective ban on these nets.” WWF also calls for cooperation between the Mexican, American and Chinese governments to intercept and stop the illegal transport of totoabas.