Endangered vaquita faring better in Gulf of California
Beneath the waves of the Gulf of California thrives a rich ecosystem, from plankton to the vaquita, the world's smallest and rarest cetacean.
Only about 300 critically endangered vaquita remain in the wild, most of them clinging to existence in a "no take" zone established by the Mexican government in the northern end of the gulf. Commercial shrimp trawlers and gill nets set for mackerel and sharks are the greatest threat to the five-foot porpoise.
Now collaborative efforts by Mexican government agencies and the tourism and fishing industries are making significant strides toward protecting the vaquita -- which was not described scientifically until 1958 -- from extinction.
"Five years ago, there were an estimated 1,300 gill nets in the gulf, and we were losing about 50 vaquita each year," said Miguel Vives, a spokesman for the World Wildlife Fund Mexico. "Since then, we have reduced the number of gill nets by 80%.
"We have lost one vaquita over the past 18 months, which is great news for this remarkable creature," Vives said.
Vives and a team of World Wildlife Fund Mexico biologists are scheduled to present an overview of their environmental projects in the Gulf of California -- home to one-third of all marine mammal species, 170 species of sea birds and more than 900 species of fish -- at 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26, during the Aquarium of the Pacific's ninth annual Baja Splash Cultural Festival.
For more information about the Long Beach event, which will include Latino dance, music and marine exhibits, visit www.aquariumofpacific.org, or call (562) 590-3100.
-- Louis Sahagun
Photo: Taylor Valencia, a member of the Folklorico del Mar dance group, in front of the Aquarium of the Pacific's bilingual Gulf of California exhibit. Credit: Courtesy of the Aquarium of the Pacific