Recent vaquita count creates rare sense of optimism


Researcher Barbara Taylor (right) during vaquita-monitoring trip in May. (Photo by Sara Newton, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)

When scientists set out on a recent expedition to estimate how many vaquitas remained in their northern Gulf of California habitat, hopes were not high. Months of uncontrolled fishing in a zone created to protect the elusive porpoise raised fears that the tiny mammal had slipped even closer to extinction since the last count almost two years ago. Instead, the sighting of a vaquita and her calf surfacing during the May trip brought the observers aboard the expedition vessel to tears. This and other sightings, along with acoustic evidence, suggest the vaquita population may have stabilized, creating a rare sense of optimism in the decades-long battle to save the porpoise from drowning in gillnets set for fish and shellfish. The 17-day expedition’s June 7 report estimated the total number of distinct individual vaquitas seen during the expedition, including one or two calves, was between 10 and 13. The... [Log in to read more]

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