The critically endangered vaquita porpoise is in danger, and the International Whaling Commission issued its first-ever extinction alarm on Monday. The vaquita, which is known as the smallest of all the species in the order Cetacea in terms of size, can get as long as 5 feet (1.5 meters).
The vaquita porpoise, which is native and distinctive to the northern end of the Gulf of California in northwest Mexico, was listed as severely endangered on the Red List of Threatened Species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 1996.
According to the IWC, its population has drastically plummeted over the course of a decade, going from 570 to only 10.
Extinct Alert is “a new mechanism” to “voice extinction concerns for an increasing range of cetacean species and populations,” It is led by the scientific committee of the IWC. Despite numerous warnings over the course of almost thirty years, the vaquita “hovers on the verge of extinction due to gillnet entanglement.”
Even though they are prohibited in the region, gillnets are nonetheless employed to catch the totoaba fish and shrimp that live alongside vaquita porpoises. Even though they aren’t the intended targets, porpoises might end up as “bycatch” in the nets.
Banned Yet Persistent
Since 1975, totoaba fishing has been prohibited in the Gulf of California. The technique is still carried out, though, since the fish’s swim bladder is still occasionally utilized in traditional Chinese medicine, where there is a particularly strong demand for it.
The scientific committee thinks there is hope for the vaquita population to recover if the prohibition on gillnets in their habitat is enforced more strictly. Gillnet use has long been a source of controversy due to the dangers it represents to vaquitas.
In regard to the crisis, the IWC immediately issued an extinction alert “to promote wider recognition of the warning signs of impending extinctions and to generate support and encouragement at every level for the efforts required right away to conserve the vaquita,” the statement reads.
It will be too late if this doesn’t happen right now, according to the committee, which claimed in the news release that “the extinction of the vaquita is inevitable unless 100% of gillnets are replaced immediately with alternative fishing gear that protects the vaquita and the livelihoods of fishers”.