The vaquita (Phocoena sinus) is a small porpoise with black marks around the eyes and mouth. They are usually light gray colored, with white underbellies. They live in shallow waters in the Gulf of California, Mexico. There are only about 30 of them left! The main reason for this is that they keep getting caught in fishing nets meant to catch a fish called the totoaba. The marine mammal is the most endangered marine mammal today.
The totoaba is a fish known for its bladder, which helps the fish maintain its buoyancy. People want their bladders, because they are well known for medicines and soups, and are illegally sold for thousands of dollars. Miles of fishing nets called gill nets are used to catch these fish. Unfortunately, the vaquita are getting caught in these nets, too.
The CIRVA, or International Committee for the recovery of the vaquita, a team of scientists established by the government of Mexico, the marine mammal center, and the U.S. government are working together to save the vaquita. The vaquita could go extinct if these nets are not removed. The Marine Mammal Center is working with gillnet removal and raising awareness about this porpoise. Illegal fishing and prohibition of gillnet fishing is being enforced to help these mammals survive in their natural habitat.
Vaquita Illustraton by Asha Matheth