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July 8 is International Save the Vaquita Day
July 8, 2017

July 8 is International Save the Vaquita Day, a day marked by events designed to raise awareness of the world’s most endangered marine mammal.
The International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association (IMATA) will mark the occasion by reaffirming their support of the ambitious plan to help save the vaquita porpoise from extinction in the northern Gulf of California. The project involves relocating some of the remaining vaquitas to a temporary sanctuary later this year. At the same time, a permanent ban on gillnet fishing went into effect last week in a bid to save a critically endangered species of porpoise. The initiative, named VaquitaCPR, is led by the Mexican government and supported by a consortium of marine mammal experts from more than a dozen organizations around the world.
In March, IMATA championed a grassroots gofundme campaign that, in just one month, garnered nearly $17,000 in donations for the cause. IMATA president Dr. Grey Stafford said, "The funds were just a first step in what will no doubt be our continued support and sharing of expertise by IMATA members to help preserve the vaquita." Dr. Cynthia Smith, Executive Director of the National Marine Mammal Foundation, said, “This is historic. We’re seeing extraordinary partnerships being forged on common ground – a shared desire to rescue the vaquita from extinction. But we must act quickly.”
VaquitaCPR (Conservation, Protection and Recovery) is an emergency action plan of the Mexican government with the input of an expert group of conservation scientists and marine mammal veterinarians. Recovery operations are set to begin in Mexico in the next few months. Billy Hurley, IMATA's executive director, says, "Emergency action by U.S. and Mexican organizations is essential to rescue a number of the remaining animals from their dangerous environment and relocate them to a safe zone in the northern Gulf of California until illegal fishing is ended and their habitat is cleared of deadly gill nets."
The emergency action plan, adopted by the Mexican government’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources is estimated to cost more than $3.7 million in 2017 alone. The project could take several years to implement and is not without risks. When asked about the uncertainties involved with this type of rescue, Stafford said, "Despite the unknowns, we cannot turn our heads and allow the remaining endangered porpoises to simply disappear."
The precipitous decline of the vaquita has been primarily driven by accidental deaths of the porpoises in fishing gillnets. In 2015, the Mexican government instituted a two-year gillnet ban over the range of the vaquita. Additionally, the Mexican government implemented a financial compensation program to provide income to fishermen affected by the two-year gillnet ban. Despite strong enforcement, illegal gillnets are still being set to catch an endangered fish known as totoaba, the swim bladders of which fetch large sums of money on Hong Kong and Chinese black markets. Thus, despite tens of millions of dollars invested by the Mexican government in preventing vaquita by-catch, the population continues to decline.
International Save the Vaquita Day is an opportunity for the public to join the fight for the vaquita’s life. Learn how to support the rescue plan by visiting
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