By Amber Friend
Vaquitas can be found in the shallow, murky ocean waters of the northern Gulf of California. Vaquitas are the most endangered of all cetacean. There are only an estimated 85 vaquitas left in the world. Which means within two years they could be completely extinct, if action isn’t taken to protect and save them.
History is not something that we just read about in books; it’s happening around us everyday especially when discussing the extinction of animals species. Dinosaurs, of course, are some of the most famous extinct animals. But many smaller animals have become recently extinct, including the dodo bird, stellar’s sea cow and sea mink. The history-making extinction of aquatic animals is not just a thing of the past, unfortunately, with many species who have lived for billions of years disappearing before our eyes. The vaquita is a prime example. With a worldwide population estimated at less than 100, the vaquita is projected to become extinct during the lifetime of school-age children.
What is a Vaquita?
A vaquita is the smallest living cetacean (pronounced sĭ-tā′shən). Cetaceans are made up of whales, dolphins and porpoises. Vaquitas are the smallest species of the porpoise. The vaquita may weigh up to 120 pounds and females can reach up to 4 feet 9 inches, males up to 4 feet 6 inches. Vaquitas are gray in color, with white markings on their stomach and two very distinctive black circles around their eyes, a stripe from fin to flipper and black lines along their mouth. Vaquita means “little cow” in Spanish.
Why are Vaquita Disappearing?
Vaquitas largest threat is a large fishing net called a “gillnet”. Fishermen use the gillnet to catch shrimp and fish. Sometimes the fisherman unintentionally catch the vaquitas in their net. The vaquitas become entangled in the gillnet causing them to drown and die. Nearly one in every five vaquita fall victim to the gillnet. Due to these circumstances we are losing vaquitas at an alarming rate between 39 to 84 a year! Since 2008 the Mexican government has taken steps to try and save the vaquita from extinction. The governmen’ts most recent effort to save the vaquita was to buyout gillnet fisheries in the upper Gulf of California. Starting in March 2015, gillnet fishing will no longer be allowed. Although time is ticking, this move provides much needed hope for the vaquita.
What You Can do to Help
• Support groups working in the area (see to the right)
• Become a responsible consumer
• Support local economies
• Ask questions, join the conversation
• Spread the word
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