Poaching Quarterly Lyndsey Miles Issue - Page 4

WHat's A vaquita?

Have you ever seen a dolphin or porpoise? A whale or shark? Have you ever heard of a vaquita? The answers are probably yes, yes, yes, yes, and a what? A vaquita. Vaquitas are small porpoises that are becoming entangled in gillnets, resulting in strangulation or drowning. The gillnets are actually set to catch another endangered species, the totoaba fish. The totoboa's swim bladder is highly prized in China, as they believe it can cure aches and pains during pregnancy, and help with joint pain. The pricey swim bladders sell for $20,000 per kilogram, which is a number comparable to gold or drugs. The vaquitas that live in the same waters as the totoboa, get caught in the nets, and die. The Mexican government, in a desperate plea to help vaquitas, placed a ban on gillnets, but it didn't cause a major enough decline in the deaths of the vaquaitas. Wildlife experts are now pushing for a permanent ban on gillnets, and for the Mexican government to enforce its bans. The two year ban is also set to expire in a few months, removing the last protection the vaquita has. Scientists have ruled that when gillnets become legal, the vaquita will go extinct in a matter of weeks. The vaquita population has declined 90% in just a few years, leaving only 30 of the small porpoises in the world. A resurgance of the gillnets would totally wipe out the population. Many petitions are being sent to the president of Mexico, as he is the only one who can save the vaquita. But what, you may ask, really is a vaquita?