The vaquita is a small, elusive porpoise that inhabits the northern Gulf of California. Due to its limited range and shy nature, little was known about the vaquita until recently. However, what we do know is that this species is now on the brink of extinction. There are thought to be only around 30 individuals left in the wild, making it one of the most endangered animals on Earth. So Why are Vaquitas Endangered and is there any way we can save the Vaquitas?
Why are Vaquitas Endangered?
The vaquita is the world’s smallest and most endangered cetacean. They are found only in a small area of the Gulf of California, and their population has declined sharply in recent years. There are many reasons why these animals are in danger of extinction, including illegal fishing, habitat loss, and pollution.
The main threat to vaquitas is accidental capture in fishing gear. They become entangled in gillnets set for other fish or shrimp and drown before they can be freed. These nets can be up to 20 meters long with mesh that is just a few centimeters wide. The vaquitas become entangled in the nets and drown before they can be freed.
It’s estimated that over 100 vaquitas die each year from being caught in gillnets alone.
Vaquitas are also sometimes killed intentionally by fishermen who consider them a nuisance because they eat their catch or get tangled in their nets. The loss of even a few individuals can have a significant impact on such a small population, which is why urgent action needs to be taken to protect these creatures from further harm.
The main threat to vaquitas is entanglement in gillnets used by fishermen targeting another species, the totoaba. Totoaba swim bladders are highly valued in Asia for their purported medicinal properties, and so there is a lucrative illegal trade in these products. As gillnets intended for totoabas often catch and drown vaquitas instead, this trade has driven the species to the brink of extinction.
Habitat loss is also a major problem for vaquitas as their natural habitat is being destroyed by humans activities such as coastal development, agriculture, and tourism. This leaves them with less space to live and feed which makes it harder for them to find mates or raise young successfully. Pollution from chemicals used on land can also enter the water and harm or kill marine life including vaquitas .
All of these factors contribute to the decline of vaquita populations , making them one of the most endangered animals on Earth. Without intervention , it’s possible that this unique species could disappear forever
How many Vaquitas are left?
As of July 2018, there are only 30 vaquitas left in the world. Vaquitas are often killed as bycatch in gillnet fisheries and their population has declined by over 80% since 2011.
What would happen if vaquitas went extinct?
The loss of the vaquita would be a tragedy not only for this species but also for the ecosystem of which they are a part. These small cetaceans play an important role in maintaining balance in their environment and their extinction would have ripple effects throughout the Gulf of California. It is imperative that we act now to save these animals before it is too late.”
Can vaquitas be saved?
The Mexican government has implemented a two-year ban on gillnet fishing in an effort to save the vaquita, but this may not be enough. Gillnetting has been banned within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of known vaquita habitat since 2005 but unfortunately this measure has not been enough to save them from extinction .
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified the vaquita as Critically Endangered and estimates that without immediate action, they will become extinct within six years.
Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to save the vaquita from extinction. For example, better regulation of fishing practices could help reduce accidental deaths while also providing an incentive for fishermen not to target this species intentionally. Additionally, establishing protected areas where gillnetting is banned would give this critically endangered porpoise some much-needed respite from human activities..
Conservation efforts are underway to protect vaquitas from becoming extinct, but time is running out for this unique animal.